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Chapter 12 Balancing

    "Billy!" Charlie called as soon as he got out of the car.

  I turned toward the house, beckoning to Jacob as I ducked under theporch. I heard Charlie greeting them loudly behind me.

  "I'm going to pretend I didn't see you behind the wheel, Jake," he saiddisapprovingly.

  "We get permits early on the rez," Jacob said while I unlocked the doorand flicked on the porch light.

  "Sure you do," Charlie laughed.

  "I have to get around somehow." I recognized Billy's resonant voiceeasily, despite the years. The sound of it made me feel suddenly younger,a child.

  I went inside, leaving the door open behind me and turning on lightsbefore I hung up my jacket. Then I stood in the door, watching anxiouslyas Charlie and Jacob helped Billy out of the car and into his wheelchair.

  I backed out of the way as the three of them hurried in, shaking off therain.

  "This is a surprise," Charlie was saying.

  "It's been too long," Billy answered. "I hope it's not a bad time." Hisdark eyes flashed up to me again, their expression unreadable.

  "No, it's great. I hope you can stay for the game."Jacob grinned. "I think that's the plan — our TV broke last week."Billy made a face at his son. "And, of course, Jacob was anxious to seeBella again," he added. Jacob scowled and ducked his head while I foughtback a surge of remorse. Maybe I'd been too convincing on the beach.

  "Are you hungry?" I asked, turning toward the kitchen. I was eager toescape Billy's searching gaze.

  "Naw, we ate just before we came," Jacob answered.

  "How about you, Charlie?" I called over my shoulder as I fled around thecorner.

  "Sure," he replied, his voice moving in the direction of the front roomand the TV. I could hear Billy's chair follow.

  The grilled cheese sandwiches were in the frying pan and I was slicing upa tomato when I sensed someone behind me.

  "So, how are things?" Jacob asked.

  "Pretty good." I smiled. His enthusiasm was hard to resist. "How aboutyou? Did you finish your car?""No." He frowned. "I still need parts. We borrowed that one." He pointedwith his thumb in the direction of the front yard.

  "Sorry. I haven't seen any… what was it you were looking for?""Master cylinder." He grinned. "Is something wrong with the truck?" headded suddenly.

  "No." "Oh. I just wondered because you weren't driving it."I stared down at the pan, pulling up the edge of a sandwich to check thebottom side. "I got a ride with a friend.""Nice ride." Jacob's voice was admiring. "I didn't recognize the driver,though. I thought I knew most of the kids around here."I nodded noncommittally, keeping my eyes down as I flipped sandwiches.

  "My dad seemed to know him from somewhere.""Jacob, could you hand me some plates? They're in the cupboard over thesink.""Sure."He got the plates in silence. I hoped he would let it drop now.

  "So who was it?" he asked, setting two plates on the counter next to me.

  I sighed in defeat. "Edward Cullen."To my surprise, he laughed. I glanced up at him. He looked a littleembarrassed.

  "Guess that explains it, then," he said. "I wondered why my dad wasacting so strange.""That's right." I faked an innocent expression. "He doesn't like theCullens.""Superstitious old man," Jacob muttered under his breath.

  "You don't think he'd say anything to Charlie?" I couldn't help asking,the words coming out in a low rush.

  Jacob stared at me for a moment, and I couldn't read the expression inhis dark eyes. "I doubt it," he finally answered. "I think Charlie chewedhim out pretty good last time. They haven't spoken much since — tonightis sort of a reunion, I think. I don't think he'd bring it up again.""Oh," I said, trying to sound indifferent.

  I stayed in the front room after I carried the food out to Charlie,pretending to watch the game while Jacob chattered at me. I was reallylistening to the men's conversation, watching for any sign that Billy wasabout to rat me out, trying to think of ways to stop him if he began.

  It was a long night. I had a lot of homework that was going undone, but Iwas afraid to leave Billy alone with Charlie. Finally, the game ended.

  "Are you and your friends coming back to the beach soon?" Jacob asked ashe pushed his father over the lip of the threshold.

  "I'm not sure," I hedged.

  "That was fun, Charlie," Billy said.

  "Come up for the next game," Charlie encouraged.

  "Sure, sure," Billy said. "We'll be here. Have a good night." His eyesshifted to mine, and his smile disappeared. "You take care, Bella," headded seriously.

  "Thanks," I muttered, looking away.

  I headed for the stairs while Charlie waved from the doorway.

  "Wait, Bella," he said.

   I cringed. Had Billy gotten something in before I'd joined them in theliving room?

  But Charlie was relaxed, still grinning from the unexpected visit.

  "I didn't get a chance to talk to you tonight. How was your day?""Good." I hesitated with one foot on the first stair, searching fordetails I could safely share. "My badminton team won all four games.""Wow, I didn't know you could play badminton.""Well, actually I can't, but my partner is really good," I admitted.

  "Who is it?" he asked with token interest.

  "Um… Mike Newton," I told him reluctantly.

  "Oh yeah — you said you were friends with the Newton kid." He perked up.

  "Nice family." He mused for a minute. "Why didn't you ask him to thedance this weekend?""Dad!" I groaned. "He's kind of dating my friend Jessica. Besides, youknow I can't dance.""Oh yeah," he muttered. Then he smiled at me apologetically. "So I guessit's good you'll be gone Saturday… I've made plans to go fishing with theguys from the station. The weather's supposed to be real warm. But if youwanted to put your trip off till someone could go with you, I'd stayhome. I know I leave you here alone too much.""Dad, you're doing a great job." I smiled, hoping my relief didn't show.

  "I've never minded being alone — I'm too much like you." I winked at him,and he smiled his crinkly-eyed smile.

  I slept better that night, too tired to dream again. When I woke to thepearl gray morning, my mood was blissful. The tense evening with Billyand Jacob seemed harmless enough now; I decided to forget it completely.

  I caught myself whistling while I was pulling the front part of my hairback into a barrette, and later again as I skipped down the stairs.

  Charlie noticed.

  "You're cheerful this morning," he commented over breakfast.

  I shrugged. "It's Friday."I hurried so I would be ready to go the second Charlie left. I had my bagready, shoes on, teeth brushed, but even though I rushed to the door assoon as I was sure Charlie would be out of sight, Edward was faster. Hewas waiting in his shiny car, windows down, engine off.

  I didn't hesitate this time, climbing in the passenger side quickly, thesooner to see his face. He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping mybreath and my heart. I couldn't imagine how an angel could be any moreglorious. There was nothing about him that could be improved upon.

  "How did you sleep?" he asked. I wondered if he had any idea howappealing his voice was.

  "Fine. How was your night?""Pleasant." His smile was amused; I felt like I was missing an insidejoke.

  "Can I ask what you did?" I asked.

  "No." He grinned. "Today is still mine."He wanted to know about people today: more about Renée, her hobbies, whatwe'd done in our free time together. And then the one grandmother I'd known, my few school friends — embarrassing me when he asked about boysI'd dated. I was relieved that I'd never really dated anyone, so thatparticular conversation couldn't last long. He seemed as surprised asJessica and Angela by my lack of romantic history.

  "So you never met anyone you wanted?" he asked in a serious tone thatmade me wonder what he was thinking about.

  I was grudgingly honest. "Not in Phoenix."His lips pressed together into a hard line.

  We were in the cafeteria at this point. The day had sped by in the blurthat was rapidly becoming routine. I took advantage of his brief pause totake a bite of my bagel.

  "I should have let you drive yourself today," he announced, apropos ofnothing, while I chewed.

  "Why?" I demanded.

  "I'm leaving with Alice after lunch.""Oh." I blinked, bewildered and disappointed. "That's okay, it's not thatfar of a walk."He frowned at me impatiently. "I'm not going to make you walk home. We'llgo get your truck and leave it here for you.""I don't have my key with me," I sighed. "I really don't mind walking."What I minded was losing my time with him.

  He shook his head. "Your truck will be here, and the key will be in theignition — unless you're afraid someone might steal it." He laughed atthe thought.

  "All right," I agreed, pursing my lips. I was pretty sure my key was inthe pocket of a pair of jeans I wore Wednesday, under a pile of clothesin the laundry room. Even if he broke into my house, or whatever he wasplanning, he'd never find it. He seemed to feel the challenge in myconsent. He smirked, overconfident.

  "So where are you going?" I asked as casually as I could manage.

  "Hunting," he answered grimly. "If I'm going to be alone with youtomorrow, I'm going to take whatever precautions I can." His face grewmorose… and pleading. "You can always cancel, you know."I looked down, afraid of the persuasive power of his eyes. I refused tobe convinced to fear him, no matter how real the danger might be. Itdoesn't matter, I repeated in my head.

  "No," I whispered, glancing back at his face. "I can't.""Perhaps you're right," he murmured bleakly. His eyes seemed to darken incolor as I watched.

  I changed the subject. "What time will I see you tomorrow?" I asked,already depressed by the thought of him leaving now.

  "That depends… it's a Saturday, don't you want to sleep in?" he offered.

  "No," I answered too fast. He restrained a smile.

  "The same time as usual, then," he decided. "Will Charlie be there?""No, he's fishing tomorrow." I beamed at the memory of how convenientlythings had worked out.

  His voice turned sharp. "And if you don't come home, what will he think?""I have no idea," I answered coolly. "He knows I've been meaning to do the laundry. Maybe he'll think I fell in the washer."He scowled at me and I scowled back. His anger was much more impressivethan mine.

  "What are you hunting tonight?" I asked when I was sure I had lost theglowering contest.

  "Whatever we find in the park. We aren't going far." He seemed bemused bymy casual reference to his secret realities.

  "Why are you going with Alice?" I wondered.

  "Alice is the most… supportive." He frowned as he spoke.

  "And the others?" I asked timidly. "What are they?"His brow puckered for a brief moment. "Incredulous, for the most part."I peeked quickly behind me at his family. They sat staring off indifferent directions, exactly the same as the first time I'd seen them.

  Only now they were four; their beautiful, bronze-haired brother satacross from me, his golden eyes troubled.

  "They don't like me," I guessed.

  "That's not it," he disagreed, but his eyes were too innocent. "Theydon't understand why I can't leave you alone."I grimaced. "Neither do I, for that matter."Edward shook his head slowly, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling beforehe met my gaze again. "I told you — you don't see yourself clearly atall. You're not like anyone I've ever known. You fascinate me."I glared at him, sure he was teasing now.

  He smiled as he deciphered my expression. "Having the advantages I do,"he murmured, touching his forehead discreetly, "I have a better thanaverage grasp of human nature. People are predictable. But you… you neverdo what I expect. You always take me by surprise."I looked away, my eyes wandering back to his family, embarrassed anddissatisfied. His words made me feel like a science experiment. I wantedto laugh at myself for expecting anything else.

  "That part is easy enough to explain," he continued. I felt his eyes onmy face but I couldn't look at him yet, afraid he might read the chagrinin my eyes. "But there's more… and it's not so easy to put into words —"I was still staring at the Cullens while he spoke. Suddenly Rosalie, hisblond and breathtaking sister, turned to look at me. No, not to look — toglare, with dark, cold eyes. I wanted to look away, but her gaze held meuntil Edward broke off mid-sentence and made an angry noise under hisbreath. It was almost a hiss.

  Rosalie turned her head, and I was relieved to be free. I looked back atEdward — and I knew he could see the confusion and fear that widened myeyes.

  His face was tight as he explained. "I'm sorry about that. She's justworried. You see… it's dangerous for more than just me if, after spendingso much time with you so publicly…" He looked down.

  "If?""If this ends… badly." He dropped his head into his hands, as he had thatnight in Port Angeles. His anguish was plain; I yearned to comfort him,but I was at a loss to know how. My hand reached toward himinvoluntarily; quickly, though, I dropped it to the table, fearing thatmy touch would only make things worse. I realized slowly that his wordsshould frighten me. I waited for that fear to come, but all I could seem to feel was an ache for his pain.

  And frustration — frustration that Rosalie had interrupted whatever hewas about to say. I didn't know how to bring it up again. He still hadhis head in his hands.

  I tried to speak in a normal voice. "And you have to leave now?""Yes." He raised his face; it was serious for a moment, and then his moodshifted and he smiled. "It's probably for the best. We still have fifteenminutes of that wretched movie left to endure in Biology — I don't thinkI could take any more."I started. Alice — her short, inky hair in a halo of spiky disarrayaround her exquisite, elfin face — was suddenly standing behind hisshoulder. Her slight frame was willowy, graceful even in absolutestillness.

  He greeted her without looking away from me. "Alice.""Edward," she answered, her high soprano voice almost as attractive ashis.

  "Alice, Bella — Bella, Alice," he introduced us, gesturing casually withhis hand, a wry smile on his face.

  "Hello, Bella." Her brilliant obsidian eyes were unreadable, but hersmile was friendly. "It's nice to finally meet you."Edward flashed a dark look at her.

  "Hi, Alice," I murmured shyly.

  "Are you ready?" she asked him.

  His voice was aloof. "Nearly. I'll meet you at the car."She left without another word; her walk was so fluid, so sinuous that Ifelt a sharp pang of jealousy.

  "Should I say 'have fun,' or is that the wrong sentiment?" I asked,turning back to him.

  "No, 'have fun' works as well as anything." He grinned.

  "Have fun, then." I worked to sound wholehearted. Of course I didn't foolhim.

  "I'll try." He still grinned. "And you try to be safe, please.""Safe in Forks — what a challenge.""For you it is a challenge." His jaw hardened. "Promise.""I promise to try to be safe," I recited. "I'll do the laundry tonight —that ought to be fraught with peril.""Don't fall in," he mocked.

  "I'll do my best."He stood then, and I rose, too.

  "I'll see you tomorrow," I sighed.

  "It seems like a long time to you, doesn't it?" he mused.

  I nodded glumly.

  "I'll be there in the morning," he promised, smiling his crooked smile.

  He reached across the table to touch my face, lightly brushing along mycheekbone again. Then he turned and walked away. I stared after him until he was gone.

  I was sorely tempted to ditch the rest of the day, at the very least Gym,but a warning instinct stopped me. I knew that if I disappeared now, Mikeand others would assume I was with Edward. And Edward was worried aboutthe time we'd spent together publicly… if things went wrong. I refused todwell on the last thought, concentrating instead on making things saferfor him.

  I intuitively knew — and sensed he did, too — that tomorrow would bepivotal. Our relationship couldn't continue to balance, as it did, on thepoint of a knife. We would fall off one edge or the other, dependingentirely upon his decision, or his instincts. My decision was made, madebefore I'd ever consciously chosen, and I was committed to seeing itthrough. Because there was nothing more terrifying to me, moreexcruciating, than the thought of turning away from him. It was animpossibility.

  I went to class, feeling dutiful. I couldn't honestly say what happenedin Biology; my mind was too preoccupied with thoughts of tomorrow. InGym, Mike was speaking to me again; he wished me a good time in Seattle.

  I carefully explained that I'd canceled my trip, worried about my truck.

  "Are you going to the dance with Cullen?" he asked, suddenly sulky.

  "No, I'm not going to the dance at all.""What are you doing, then?" he asked, too interested.

  My natural urge was to tell him to butt out. Instead, I lied brightly.

  "Laundry, and then I have to study for the Trig test or I'm going tofail.""Is Cullen helping you study?""Edward," I emphasized, "is not going to help me study. He's gone awaysomewhere for the weekend." The lies came more naturally than usual, Inoted with surprise.

  "Oh." He perked up. "You know, you could come to the dance with our groupanyway — that would be cool. We'd all dance with you," he promised.

  The mental image of Jessica's face made my tone sharper than necessary.

  "I'm not going to the dance, Mike, okay?""Fine." He sulked again. "I was just offering."When the school day had finally ended, I walked to the parking lotwithout enthusiasm. I did not especially want to walk home, but Icouldn't see how he would have retrieved my truck. Then again, I wasstarting to believe that nothing was impossible for him. The latterinstinct proved correct — my truck sat in the same space he'd parked hisVolvo in this morning. I shook my head, incredulous, as I opened theunlocked door and saw the key in the ignition.

  There was a piece of white paper folded on my seat. I got in and closedthe door before I unfolded it. Two words were written in his elegantscript.

  Be safe.

  The sound of the truck roaring to life frightened me. I laughed at myself.

  When I got home, the handle of the door was locked, the dead boltunlocked, just as I'd left it this morning. Inside, I went straight tothe laundry room. It looked just the same as I'd left it, too. I dug formy jeans and, after finding them, checked the pockets. Empty. Maybe I'dhung my key up after all, I thought, shaking my head.

   Following the same instinct that had prompted me to lie to Mike, I calledJessica on the pretense of wishing her luck at the dance. When sheoffered the same wish for my day with Edward, I told her about thecancellation. She was more disappointed than really necessary for athird-party observer to be. I said goodbye quickly after that.

  Charlie was absentminded at dinner, worried over something at work, Iguessed, or maybe a basketball game, or maybe he was just really enjoyingthe lasagna — it was hard to tell with Charlie.

  "You know, Dad…" I began, breaking into his reverie.

  "What's that, Bell?""I think you're right about Seattle. I think I'll wait until Jessica orsomeone else can go with me.""Oh," he said, surprised. "Oh, okay. So, do you want me to stay home?""No, Dad, don't change your plans. I've got a million things to do…homework, laundry… I need to go to the library and the grocery store.

  I'll be in and out all day… you go and have fun.""Are you sure?""Absolutely, Dad. Besides, the freezer is getting dangerously low on fish— we're down to a two, maybe three years' supply.""You're sure easy to live with, Bella." He smiled.

  "I could say the same thing about you," I said, laughing. The sound of mylaughter was off, but he didn't seem to notice. I felt so guilty fordeceiving him that I almost took Edward's advice and told him where Iwould be. Almost.

  After dinner, I folded clothes and moved another load through the dryer.

  Unfortunately it was the kind of job that only keeps hands busy. My minddefinitely had too much free time, and it was getting out of control. Ifluctuated between anticipation so intense that it was very nearly pain,and an insidious fear that picked at my resolve. I had to keep remindingmyself that I'd made my choice, and I wasn't going back on it. I pulledhis note out of my pocket much more often than necessary to absorb thetwo small words he'd written. He wants me to be safe, I told myself againand again. I would just hold on to the faith that, in the end, thatdesire would win out over the others. And what was my other choice — tocut him out of my life? Intolerable. Besides, since I'd come to Forks, itreally seemed like my life was about him.

  But a tiny voice in the back of my mind worried, wondering if it wouldhurt very much… if it ended badly.

  I was relieved when it was late enough to be acceptable for bedtime. Iknew I was far too stressed to sleep, so I did something I'd never donebefore. I deliberately took unnecessary cold medicine — the kind thatknocked me out for a good eight hours. I normally wouldn't condone thattype of behavior in myself, but tomorrow would be complicated enoughwithout me being loopy from sleep deprivation on top of everything else.

  While I waited for the drugs to kick in, I dried my clean hair till itwas impeccably straight, and fussed over what I would wear tomorrow. Witheverything ready for the morning, I finally lay in my bed. I felt hyper;I couldn't stop twitching. I got up and rifled through my shoebox of CDsuntil I found a collection of Chopin's nocturnes. I put that on veryquietly and then lay down again, concentrating on relaxing individualparts of my body. Somewhere in the middle of that exercise, the coldpills took effect, and I gladly sank into unconsciousness.

  I woke early, having slept soundly and dreamlessly thanks to mygratuitous drug use. Though I was well rested, I slipped right back intothe same hectic frenzy from the night before. I dressed in a rush, smoothing my collar against my neck, fidgeting with the tan sweater tillit hung right over my jeans. I sneaked a swift look out the window to seethat Charlie was already gone. A thin, cottony layer of clouds veiled thesky. They didn't look very lasting.

  I ate breakfast without tasting the food, hurrying to clean up when I wasdone. I peeked out the window again, but nothing had changed. I had justfinished brushing my teeth and was heading back downstairs when a quietknock sent my heart thudding against my rib cage.

  I flew to the door; I had a little trouble with the simple dead bolt, butI yanked the door open at last, and there he was. All the agitationdissolved as soon as I looked at his face, calm taking its place. Ibreathed a sigh of relief — yesterday's fears seemed very foolish withhim here.

  He wasn't smiling at first — his face was somber. But then his expressionlightened as he looked me over, and he laughed.

  "Good morning," he chuckled.

  "What's wrong?" I glanced down to make sure I hadn't forgotten anythingimportant, like shoes, or pants.

  "We match." He laughed again. I realized he had a long, light tan sweateron, with a white collar showing underneath, and blue jeans. I laughedwith him, hiding a secret twinge of regret — why did he have to look likea runway model when I couldn't?

  I locked the door behind me while he walked to the truck. He waited bythe passenger door with a martyred expression that was easy to understand.

  "We made a deal," I reminded him smugly, climbing into the driver's seat,and reaching over to unlock his door.

  "Where to?" I asked.

  "Put your seat belt on — I'm nervous already."I gave him a dirty look as I complied.

  "Where to?" I repeated with a sigh.

  "Take the one-oh-one north," he ordered.

  It was surprisingly difficult to concentrate on the road while feelinghis gaze on my face. I compensated by driving more carefully than usualthrough the still-sleeping town.

  "Were you planning to make it out of Forks before nightfall?""This truck is old enough to be your car's grandfather — have somerespect," I retorted.

  We were soon out of the town limits, despite his negativity. Thickunderbrush and green-swathed trunks replaced the lawns and houses.

  "Turn right on the one-ten," he instructed just as I was about to ask. Iobeyed silently.

  "Now we drive until the pavement ends."I could hear a smile in his voice, but I was too afraid of driving offthe road and proving him right to look over and be sure.

  "And what's there, at the pavement's end?" I wondered.

  "A trail.""We're hiking?" Thank goodness I'd worn tennis shoes.

  "Is that a problem?" He sounded as if he'd expected as much.

   "No." I tried to make the lie sound confident. But if he thought my truckwas slow…"Don't worry, it's only five miles or so, and we're in no hurry."Five miles. I didn't answer, so that he wouldn't hear my voice crack inpanic. Five miles of treacherous roots and loose stones, trying to twistmy ankles or otherwise incapacitate me. This was going to be humiliating.

  We drove in silence for a while as I contemplated the coming horror.

  "What are you thinking?" he asked impatiently after a few moments.

  I lied again. "Just wondering where we're going.""It's a place I like to go when the weather is nice." We both glanced outthe windows at the thinning clouds after he spoke.

  "Charlie said it would be warm today.""And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?" he asked.

  "Nope.""But Jessica thinks we're going to Seattle together?" He seemed cheeredby the idea.

  "No, I told her you canceled on me — which is true.""No one knows you're with me?" Angrily, now.

  "That depends… I assume you told Alice?""That's very helpful, Bella," he snapped.

  I pretended I didn't hear that.

  "Are you so depressed by Forks that it's made you suicidal?" he demandedwhen I ignored him.

  "You said it might cause trouble for you… us being together publicly," Ireminded him.

  "So you're worried about the trouble it might cause me— if you don't comehome?" His voice was still angry, and bitingly sarcastic.

  I nodded, keeping my eyes on the road.

  He muttered something under his breath, speaking so quickly that Icouldn't understand.

  We were silent for the rest of the drive. I could feel the waves ofinfuriated disapproval rolling off of him, and I could think of nothingto say.

  And then the road ended, constricting to a thin foot trail with a smallwooden marker. I parked on the narrow shoulder and stepped out, afraidbecause he was angry with me and I didn't have driving as an excuse notto look at him. It was warm now, warmer than it had been in Forks sincethe day I'd arrived, almost muggy under the clouds. I pulled off mysweater and knotted it around my waist, glad that I'd worn the light,sleeveless shirt — especially if I had five miles of hiking ahead of me.

  I heard his door slam, and looked over to see that he'd removed hissweater, too. He was facing away from me, into the unbroken forest besidemy truck.

  "This way," he said, glancing over his shoulder at me, eyes stillannoyed. He started into the dark forest.

  "The trail?" Panic was clear in my voice as I hurried around the truck to catch up to him.

  "I said there was a trail at the end of the road, not that we were takingit.""No trail?" I asked desperately.

  "I won't let you get lost." He turned then, with a mocking smile, and Istifled a gasp. His white shirt was sleeveless, and he wore itunbuttoned, so that the smooth white skin of his throat floweduninterrupted over the marble contours of his chest, his perfectmusculature no longer merely hinted at behind concealing clothes. He wastoo perfect, I realized with a piercing stab of despair. There was no waythis godlike creature could be meant for me.

  He stared at me, bewildered by my tortured expression.

  "Do you want to go home?" he said quietly, a different pain than minesaturating his voice.

  "No." I walked forward till I was close beside him, anxious not to wasteone second of whatever time I might have with him.

  "What's wrong?" he asked, his voice gentle.

  "I'm not a good hiker," I answered dully. "You'll have to be verypatient.""I can be patient — if I make a great effort." He smiled, holding myglance, trying to lift me out of my sudden, unexplained dejection.

  I tried to smile back, but the smile was unconvincing. He scrutinized myface.

  "I'll take you home," he promised. I couldn't tell if the promise wasunconditional, or restricted to an immediate departure. I knew he thoughtit was fear that upset me, and I was grateful again that I was the oneperson whose mind he couldn't hear.

  "If you want me to hack five miles through the jungle before sundown,you'd better start leading the way," I said acidly. He frowned at me,struggling to understand my tone and expression.

  He gave up after a moment and led the way into the forest.

  It wasn't as hard as I had feared. The way was mostly flat, and he heldthe damp ferns and webs of moss aside for me. When his straight path tookus over fallen trees or boulders, he would help me, lifting me by theelbow, and then releasing me instantly when I was clear. His cold touchon my skin never failed to make my heart thud erratically. Twice, whenthat happened, I caught a look on his face that made me sure he couldsomehow hear it.

  I tried to keep my eyes away from his perfection as much as possible, butI slipped often. Each time, his beauty pierced me through with sadness.

  For the most part, we walked in silence. Occasionally he would ask arandom question that he hadn't gotten to in the past two days ofinterrogation. He asked about my birthdays, my grade school teachers, mychildhood pets — and I had to admit that after killing three fish in arow, I'd given up on the whole institution. He laughed at that, louderthan I was used to — bell-like echoes bouncing back to us from the emptywoods.

  The hike took me most of the morning, but he never showed any sign ofimpatience. The forest spread out around us in a boundless labyrinth ofancient trees, and I began to be nervous that we would never find our wayout again. He was perfectly at ease, comfortable in the green maze, neverseeming to feel any doubt about our direction.

  After several hours, the light that filtered through the canopytransformed, the murky olive tone shifting to a brighter jade. The day had turned sunny, just as he'd foretold. For the first time since we'dentered the woods, I felt a thrill of excitement — which quickly turnedto impatience.

  "Are we there yet?" I teased, pretending to scowl.

  "Nearly." He smiled at the change in my mood. "Do you see the brightnessahead?"I peered into the thick forest. "Um, should I?"He smirked. "Maybe it's a bit soon for your eyes.""Time to visit the optometrist," I muttered. His smirk grew morepronounced.

  But then, after another hundred yards, I could definitely see alightening in the trees ahead, a glow that was yellow instead of green. Ipicked up the pace, my eagerness growing with every step. He let me leadnow, following noiselessly.

  I reached the edge of the pool of light and stepped through the lastfringe of ferns into the loveliest place I had ever seen. The meadow wassmall, perfectly round, and filled with wildflowers — violet, yellow, andsoft white. Somewhere nearby, I could hear the bubbling music of astream. The sun was directly overhead, filling the circle with a haze ofbuttery sunshine. I walked slowly, awestruck, through the soft grass,swaying flowers, and warm, gilded air. I halfway turned, wanting to sharethis with him, but he wasn't behind me where I thought he'd be. I spunaround, searching for him with sudden alarm. Finally I spotted him, stillunder the dense shade of the canopy at the edge of the hollow, watchingme with cautious eyes. Only then did I remember what the beauty of themeadow had driven from my mind — the enigma of Edward and the sun, whichhe'd promised to illustrate for me today.

  I took a step back toward him, my eyes alight with curiosity. His eyeswere wary, reluctant. I smiled encouragingly and beckoned to him with myhand, taking another step back to him. He held up a hand in warning, andI hesitated, rocking back onto my heels.

  Edward seemed to take a deep breath, and then he stepped out into thebright glow of the midday sun.

第十二章 平衡

“比利!”查理一下车就喊道。

我转身向屋子走去,躲到门廊底下的时候,我才向雅克布招手示意。我听到查理在我身后招呼着他们。

“我会假装没有看到你坐在方向盘后的,杰克。”他不以为然地说道。

“在保留区我们会更早地拿到驾照。”雅克布说道。这时我打开门,在门廊里轻拂着头发。

“你当然会。”查理大笑着说。

“无论如何我都得到处转转。”不管过了多少年,我依然能轻而易举地认出比利洪亮的声音。这声音让我忽然觉得自己小了几岁,还是个孩子。

我走进屋,把门敞开着,在挂起我的夹克以前先把灯打开。然后我站在门里,焦急地看着查理和雅克布帮助比利从车里出来,坐到轮椅上。

当他们三个冲进来,甩着身上的雨水时,我让开了路。

“这实在是个惊喜。”查理说着。

“已经过了很久了。”比利回答道。“我希望那段时间不算太糟糕。”他黑色的眼睛又一次掠过我,眼里的神情让人难以读懂。

“不,那好极了。我希望你能留下来看比赛。”

雅克布咧嘴一笑。“我想计划是这样的——我们的电视机上个礼拜坏掉了。”

比利对自己的儿子作了个鬼脸。“还有,当然,雅克布也渴望着再次见到贝拉。”他补充道。雅克布皱起眉,迅速低下了头。我按捺住了一阵汹涌而至的自责。也许在沙滩上我表现得太令人信服了。

“你们饿了吗?”我问道,转身向厨房走去。我渴望着逃离比利洞察的注视。

“不,我们来之前刚吃过。”雅克布答道。

“你呢,查理?”当我转过拐角的时候,我越过肩膀向后喊道。

“当然。”他应声说道。他的声音向着前厅和电视机的方向移动着。我能听到比利的轮椅跟着过去了。

烤奶酪三明治已经在煎锅里了,我正在把一个马铃薯切片,这时我感觉到某人正站在我身后。

“那么,最近过得怎么样?”雅克布问道。

“相当不错。”我微笑着说。要抵抗住他的热情是件很难的事。“你呢?你的车弄好了吗?”

“没。”他皱起眉。“我还需要一些零部件。这辆车是我们借来的。”他用拇指指着前院的方向。

“对不起。我没看到什么……你要找的是什么?”

“制动缸。”他咧嘴一笑。“那辆卡车有什么问题吗?”他忽然补充道。

“没有。”

“哦。我只是有点怀疑,因为你不再开它。”

我低下头看着煎锅,夹起一片三明治的一角,检查朝下的那一面。“我搭一个朋友的车上学。”

“好车。”雅克布的声音里充满了赞叹。“但是我不认识开车的那个人。我想我认识这附近的大部分孩子。”

我含糊地点点头,始终低着头,给三明治翻面。

“我爸似乎在什么地方认识了他。”

“雅克布,你能递给我几个盘子吗?它们就在水槽上的橱柜里。”

“好的。”

他沉默着走过去拿盘子。我希望他现在不要再提这件事了。

“那么,他是谁?”他问道,把两个盘子放到了我旁边的流理台上。

我挫败地叹了口气。“爱德华?卡伦。”

出乎我意料的是,他大笑起来。我抬起头看着他,他看上去有一点窘迫不安。

“那么,我猜这解释了一切。”他说道。“我还在奇怪为什么我爸表现得那么古怪呢。” 
 “非常正确。”我装出一副无辜的神情。“他不喜欢卡伦一家。”

“迷信的老男人。”雅克布用几不可闻的声音抱怨道。

“你不认为他会对查理说什么吗?”我情不自禁地问道,这些话低声地脱口而出。

雅克布注视了我一会儿,我读不懂他黑眼睛里的神情。“我不能肯定。”他最终答道。“我想上次查理把他狠狠地训斥了一顿。从那以后他们就没怎么说过话——今晚有点重聚的意味,我想。我不认为他会再提起这件事。”

“哦。”我说道,试图让自己听起来漠不关心一些。

在我把食物拿给查理以后,我一直待在前厅里。当雅克布喋喋不休地和我说话时,我假装在看比赛。我是在认真听着大人的对话,寻找着任何比利打算密告我的迹象,试着想出他开口时打断他的方法。

这是一个漫长的夜晚。我有很多作业要做,但我不敢让比利和查理单独相处。最终,比赛结束了。

“你和你的朋友最近会再去海滩吗?”当雅克布把他爸爸推过门槛时,他问道。

“我不能肯定。”我没有正面回答。

“比赛太有趣了,查理。”比利说道。

“下一场比赛时再过来。”查理鼓励道。

“当然,当然。”比利说道。“我们会再到这里来的。晚安。”他的目光飞快地转向我的眼睛,他的笑容消失了。“你要当心,贝拉。”他严肃地补充道。

“谢谢。”我低声说道,看向别处。

当查理向车道挥手的时候,我径直走上楼。

“等等,贝拉。”他说道。

我畏缩了一下。难道在我到起居室加入他们以前,比利就已经得手了吗?

“今天晚上我没找到机会跟你说话。你今天过得怎么样?”

“很好。”我的脚落在第一级台阶上,我迟疑着,搜寻着可以我安全地分享的细节。“我所在的羽毛球队赢了四场比赛。”

“哇噢,我不知道你还会打羽毛球。”

“嗯,我确实不会。但我的搭档相当棒。”我坦白道。

“那是谁?”他带着象征性的兴趣问道。

“呃……迈克?牛顿。”我勉强告诉了他。

“哦是的——你说过你和牛顿家的孩子是朋友。”他精神为之一振。“不错的一家人。”他沉思了片刻。“你为什么不邀请他参加这周末的舞会呢?”(。。。查理很没眼色。。。)

“爸爸!”我呻吟道。“他几乎可以说是正在和我的朋友杰西卡约会。还有,你知道我不能跳舞。”

“哦是的。”他喃喃自语道。然后他认错地向我微笑着。“那么我猜,你这周六出去会相当不错……我计划和署里的家伙一起去钓鱼。那天的天气应该会相当暖和。但如果你想推迟你的旅程,直到有人能跟你一起去的话,我会待在家里。我知道我老是让你一个人待在这里。”

“爸爸,你做得相当不错。”我微笑着,希望我的宽慰没有表现出来。“我从不介意一个人待着——我和你太相似了。”我向他眨了眨眼,而他露出了那个眯着眼的笑容。
这天晚上我睡得更好些,因为太累了所以没有做梦。当我在这个珍珠灰色的早晨醒来时,我的心情简直乐翻了天。当我用一个夹子把刘海往后别起来的时候,我发现自己在吹口哨,而稍后我跳着下楼时又吹了一声。查理注意到了。

“你今天早上似乎很快活。”吃完早餐后他评价道。

我耸耸肩:“今天是星期五。”

我相当匆忙,这样我就能在查理离开的那一秒准备好。我整理好书包,穿上鞋,刷完牙,甚至在一确定查理走出视线范围的时候我就冲出了门,但爱德华更快。他已经在他那辆银光闪闪的车旁等着了。车窗摇了下来,引擎已经关掉了。(我终于想明白了。。。Edward根本就是事先藏在树林里,一等查理转过拐角就扛着车子飞奔出来。。。貌似贝拉家周围没有邻居。。。)

这一次我没再犹豫,飞快地爬进了乘客座,更快地看见了他的脸。他冲我弯弯一笑,停下了我的呼吸和心跳。我没法想象比他更美的天使了。他身上没有什么还能再改进的了。

“你睡得怎么样?”他问道。我怀疑他是否知道自己的声音是多么的动人。

“很好。你昨晚过得怎样?”

“很开心。”他的笑容很愉快。我感觉我错过了一个秘密的笑话。

“我能问你做了什么吗?”我问道。

“不能。”他咧嘴一笑。“今天还是我的。”

他今天想了解别人的事:更多关于蕾妮的事,她的爱好,当我们空闲的时候我们一起做过的事。还有我记得的一位祖母,我寥寥无几的在学校里的朋友——让我困窘的是他居然问起了我约会过的男孩子。我很庆幸自己从没真正地跟谁约会过,所以这个特别的对话没有持续太久。他似乎和杰西卡还有安吉拉一样惊讶于我在罗曼史方面的匮乏。

“所以你从没遇见过你想要的人?”他用严肃的语气问道,这让我想知道他在想什么。

我满心不情愿地诚实答道。“在凤凰城没有。”

他的嘴唇紧紧地抿在一起,抿成了一条坚毅的线条。

此刻我们正在自助餐厅里。这一天又是在一阵模糊中过去了,这很快会变成例行公事的。我利用他短暂的停顿咬了一口硬面包圈。

“今天我必须让你自己开车回去。”当我咀嚼的时候,他宣布,没有提及任何理由。

“为什么?”我诘问道。

“午饭后我要和爱丽丝出去一下。

“哦。”我眨了眨眼睛,既迷惑又失望。“没关系,走回去不算太远。”

他不耐烦地冲我皱起了眉:“我没打算让你走回家。我们会去取你的卡车然后把它给你留在这里。”

“我没带钥匙。”我叹了口气。“我真的不介意走回去。”我真正介意的是错失了和他待在一起的时光。

他摇了摇头。“你的卡车会在这里的,而钥匙会在点火器里——除非你害怕有人会把它偷走。”一想到这里他就大笑起来。

“好吧。”我同意了,撅起了嘴。我非常肯定我的钥匙在我星期三穿的牛仔裤的口袋里,在洗衣间的一堆衣服下面。即使他能闯进我家里,或者以他计划的任何方式进去,他也永远找不到它。他似乎感觉到了我的同意里的挑衅。他自负地坏笑起来。

“那么,你要去哪里?”我用自己所能控制的最若无其事的语气问道。

“狩猎。”他冷酷地回答道。“如果明天我打算和你单独相处,我就得做好万全的预防措施。”他的表情变得乖僻起来……还有恳求。“你随时都可以取消计划,你知道的。”

我低下头,害怕着他那双富有说服力的眼睛。我拒绝承认自己是在害怕他,不管那种危险有多么的真切。这无关紧要。我在脑海里重复着。

“不,”我耳语着,抬起头看着他的脸。“我不能。”

“也许你是对的。”他低声说着,语气苍凉。当我看过去的时候,他眼睛的颜色似乎变黑了。

我改变了话题。“我明天几点能见到你?”我问道,想到他现在就要离开几乎要让我沮丧起来了。

“那得看情况……那天是周六,你不想睡懒觉吗?”他提议道。

“不。”我回答得太快了。他按捺住了一个微笑。

“那么,和往常一样的时间。”他决定道。“查理会在家吗?”

“不,他明天去钓鱼。”一想到事情居然变得如此合宜,我便微笑起来。

他的语气忽然尖锐起来。“如果你没有回家,他会怎么想?”
“我不知道。”我冷淡地回答道。“他知道我打算洗衣服。也许他会认为我掉进洗衣机里了。”

他冲我阴沉着脸,而我同样绷着脸怒视着他。他的愤怒甚至比我自己的还要有感染力。

“你今晚打算狩猎什么?”当我确定自己已经在怒视竞赛中败北的时候,我问道。

“任何我们在国家公园里能找到的猎物。我们不会走太远。”他有点发愣,因为我竟如此随意地提及他隐秘的事实。

“为什么你要和爱丽丝一起去呢?”我怀疑道。

“爱丽丝最……支持我。”他说着,皱起了眉头。

“那别的人呢?”我羞怯地问道。“他们怎么样?”

那一瞬间,他的额头皱了起来:“怀疑,大部分是这样。”

我飞快地偷看了一眼自己身后的他的家人。他们坐在那里,盯着不同的方向,非常像我第一次看到他们时的情形。只不过现在他们是四个人,他们俊美的,红铜色头发的兄弟正和我相对而坐,他金色的眼睛里很不平静。

“他们不喜欢我。”我猜测道。

“不是这样的。”他否定道,但他的眼神显得太无辜了。“他们只是不明白为什么我不能让你一个人待着。”

我扮了个鬼脸:“同样,我也不明白。”

爱德华缓缓地摇了摇头,冲着天花板翻了翻白眼。然后再次注视着我。“我告诉过你——你根本没有清楚地认识你自己。你和我遇过的任何人都不一样。你让我着迷。”

我瞪着他,确信他现在是在取笑我。

在读懂了我的表情后,他笑了。“我所拥有的优势,”他谨慎地抚了一下他的额头,喃喃低语道。“让我能更好地抓住人类的本性。人心是很容易揣度的。可你……你从不按我的期待行事。(不按我的牌理出牌)你总让我惊奇。”

我看向别处,我的目光又游移到他的家人身上,既窘迫又不满。他的话让我觉得这一切像是一个科学实验。我想嘲笑自己,居然还在期待着别的可能性。

“这个部分很容易解释,”他继续说道。我感觉到他的目光落在了我脸上,但我还是不能看着他,生怕他会看出我眼中的苦恼。“但还有更多……而且这些很难用语言来表达——”

他说话的时候,我依然注视着卡伦家的人。突然罗莎莉,他那个金发的迷人的姐姐,转过头来看着我。不,不是看——是怒视,用阴沉的,冰冷的眼神怒视着我。我想要看向别处,但她的凝视让我动弹不得,直到爱德华中断了说到一半的句子,发出极低的愤怒的声音。那几乎是一阵嘘声。

罗莎莉转过头,而我如释重负地得到了解脱。我看回爱德华——我知道他能看出在我眼中蔓延的混乱和害怕。

他的脸绷紧了,他解释道。“我对此感到抱歉。她只是在担心。你知道……这很危险,不只是对我一个人来说是这样,如果,在和你如此公开地度过了这么多的时光以后……”他垂下了头。

“如果?”

“如果结果……不好。”他把头埋在手中,就像他在天使港那晚所做的那样。他的苦恼再明白不过了。我很想去安慰他,但我很困惑,不知道怎么做。我的手不知不觉地伸向他,但很快,我把手收回了桌子底下,害怕着自己的触摸只会让情况更糟。我慢慢意识到,他的话本应该吓到我的。我等待着恐惧的降临,但所有我能感受到的,只是对他的痛苦感同身受的心痛。

还有沮丧——因为罗莎莉打断了他正要说出的话而沮丧着。我不知道该怎么重提这个话题。他依然把头埋在手里。
我试图用正常的语气说话:“你现在就得走了吗?”

“是的。”他抬起脸,有一阵他的神情依然很严峻,但随即他的心情改变了,他微笑着说:“这也许是最好的结果了。生物课上我们要看的那部该死的电影还剩十五分钟——我不认为我还能忍受更多的时间。”

我抬起头。(I started。。。)爱丽丝——她短短的黑发乱糟糟地围在她精致如精灵般的面孔周围,像一道光圈——突然站到了他身后。即使她一动不动地站在那里,她纤细的身材依然显得那么苗条,那么优雅。

他向她打招呼,却没有把目光从我脸上移开。“爱丽丝。”

“爱德华。”她回应道。她宛如女高音歌手般的声线几乎和他的声音依然有魅力。

“爱丽丝,这是贝拉——贝拉,这是爱丽丝。”他介绍我们认识,漫不经心地用手打着手势,一个歪扭的笑容浮现在他脸上。

“你好,贝拉。”她明朗如黑曜石的眸子有着难以捉摸的神情,但她的微笑很友好。“很高兴终于能见到你了。”

爱德华阴沉地扫了她一眼。

“你好,爱丽丝。”我羞涩地低声说道。

“你准备好了吗?”她问他。

他的语气很生疏。“差不多。我们车上见。”

她一言不发地离开了。她走路的姿势是那么的流畅,有如行云流水,我感到一阵嫉妒的刺痛。

“我应该说‘玩得开心’,或者这是一种错误的情绪吗?”我转回头看他,问道。

“不,‘玩得开心’在任何情况下都适用。”他咧嘴一笑。

“那么,玩得开心!”我努力地让自己听起来很诚恳。当然我还是没能骗过他。

“我尽量。”他依然咧嘴笑着。“你也要尽力让自己安然无恙,求你了。”

“在福克斯安然无恙——真是个挑战。”

“对你来说确实是个挑战。”他的下巴绷得更紧了。“向我保证。”

“我保证尽量让自己安然无恙。”我背诵道。“我今晚会洗衣服——这应该会有一定的危险性。”

“别掉进去。”他嘲弄道。

“我会尽力而为。”

他随即站起来,我也站了起来。

“明天见。”我叹息道。

“这对你来说似乎是一段很长的时光,不是吗?”他若有所思地说道。

我闷闷不乐地点点头。

“我一早就到。”他保证道,弯弯一笑。他伸出手,隔着桌子抚摸着我的脸,又一次轻抚过我的颧骨。然后他转身走开了。我目送着他离去。

那天剩下的时光里,我非常渴望翘课,至少翘掉体育课,但一种本能的警告阻止了我。我知道如果我现在消失的话,迈克和其他人会认为我是和爱德华在一起。而爱德华正担心我们公开相处的时间太多……如果事情向不好的方向发展的话。我拒绝去细想最后一个念头,取而代之的是把注意力集中在让他更安全的方面。

我凭直觉知道——也从他的举止中感觉到——明天会非常关键。我们的关系不会继续这样平衡下去,它已经立在了刀刃上。我们要么落到这头,要么落到那头,这完全基于他的决定,或是他的本能。我早已下定了决心,甚至是在我有意识地作出选择以前就定下来了,我会坚定不移地走到底。因为对我来说,没有什么能比要离他而去的这个念头更让人恐惧,更折磨人了。这是个不可能事件。
我认命地走去上课。我无法诚实地说出生物课到底上了什么内容。我的脑子一心一意地想着明天的事。体育课上,迈克又和我说话了,他祝我在西雅图过得愉快。我详尽地解释了我已经取消了这次旅程,因为对我的卡车有所顾忌。

“你会和卡伦一起去舞会吗?”他忽然沉下脸,问道。

“不,我根本不打算去舞会。”

“那,你打算做什么?”他问道,兴趣似乎太浓了些。

我的本能的冲动在咆哮着,想告诉他不要多管闲事。不过,我还是明智地撒了谎。

“洗衣服,然后我得为三角函数的测试复习,否则我就要挂掉了。”

“卡伦会帮你复习吗?”

“爱德华,”我强调道。“不会来帮我复习。他这周末要去别的地方。”我惊讶地注意到,这个谎言比平常还要来得自然些。

“哦。”他开始得意洋洋起来。“你知道,无论如何你可以和我们一组去舞会——那会非常酷的。我们可以和你一起跳舞。”他保证道。

脑海里浮现出的杰西卡的表情的画面让我的口气尖锐得有些过头。

“我不打算去舞会,迈克,明白吗?”

“好的。”他再次闷闷不乐起来。“我只是随便说说。”

当这一天的课程终于结束的时候,我毫无热情地向停车场走去。我确实不想走回家,但我实在看不出他怎么能把我的卡车弄回来。但随即,我又开始相信对他来说没有什么不可能。而后,我的直觉被证实了——我的卡车正待在在今天早上他停那辆沃尔沃的地方。我难以置信地摇了摇头,然后打开没锁的车门,看到车钥匙正在点火器里。

一张折叠起来的白纸放在我的座位上。我坐进去,关上门,然后打开了它。是他雅致的笔迹,只有两个字。

“平安。”

卡车要命咆哮着的声音把我吓了一跳。我自嘲地一笑。

当我到家的时候,门把手紧锁着,插销开着,和我今早离开时一样。我走进屋,直接进了洗衣房。同样地,一切看上去和我原来把它们留在那里时一样。我在衣服堆里翻找着我的牛仔裤,找着以后,检查上面的口袋。空的。也许我早就把我的钥匙挂起来了,我想着,摇了摇头。

遵循促使我向迈克撒谎的同样的本能的指示,我打电话给杰西卡,虚伪地祝她在舞会上好运。当她同样祝我和爱德华一起的一天好运时,我告诉她计划取消了。作为一个第三方旁观者,她的失望有点超出必要。之后,我飞快地说了再见。

吃晚餐时查理有些心不在焉,不仅仅是在担心着工作上的事,我猜,也许是一场篮球赛,也许他只是真的很喜欢意大利菜——很难说查理在担心什么。

“你知道,爸爸……”我开口说道,打断了他的沉思。

“怎么了,贝拉?”

“我想在西雅图的事上你是对的。我想我会等到杰西卡或者别人能和我一起去时再作决定。”

“哦,”他惊讶地说道。“哦,好的。那么,你想让我留在家里吗?”

“不用,爸爸,不必改变你的计划。我有成千上万的事情要做……作业,洗衣服……我得去趟图书馆,还有杂货店。我一整天都得进进出出的……你去吧,玩得开心点。”

“你确定?”

“完全肯定,爸爸。还有,冰箱里的鱼少得有点危险——我们只剩下可吃两年,或者三年的存量了。”

“你能撑得过去的,贝拉。”他笑了起来。

“对你我也可以这样说。”我说着,大笑起来。我的笑声有些突兀,但他没注意到。我为欺骗他而深感内疚,几乎就要采纳爱德华的建议,告诉他要去那里了。只是几乎。

晚饭后,我把衣服叠好,又放了一堆进烘干机。不幸的是,这种工作只能让手忙着。我的脑子依然无所事事,于是它完全失控了。我在两种念头间动荡不安着,一方面我的期望是如此的强烈以致于这种感觉几近痛苦,而另一方面一种潜伏着的恐惧正蚕食着我的决心。我不得不一再地提醒自己,我已经作出了我的选择,而且我不打算回头。我太过频繁地把他的字条从口袋里拿出来看,汲取着他所写的两个小小的字。他希望我平安,我一遍又一遍地告诉自己。我只需要坚信着这一点,最终,这个渴望将战胜一切别的念头。而我的另一个选择——把他从我的生活里剔除掉又会怎么样呢?这将是我生命中不能承受之痛。此外,从我来到福克斯时起,他就已经成为了我的生命中的一切。 但在我心底的一个小小的声音在担心着,想知道这会不会非常地让人受创……如果结局不好的话。

当时间已经太晚,已经到了睡觉时间的时候,我很是宽慰。我知道自己太紧张,根本没法睡着,所以我做了一件我从没做过的事。我故意吃了点感冒药,尽管我并不需要——这种药片能让我昏睡过去,好好地睡上八个小时。正常情况下我不会宽恕自己的这种行为,但明天的情况已经够复杂的了,我没有必要在所有别的事情之外,再雪上加霜地让自己因为睡眠不足而昏昏沉沉。在我等着药物生效的时候,我擦着自己洗得干干净净的头发,直到它直得无懈可击为止,然后焦躁不安地准备好明天要穿的衣服。等到一切为明天做的准备都做完以后,我终于躺到了床上。我感到既兴奋又紧张。我没法停止翻来覆去。我起身在用力装CD的鞋盒里翻找着,直到我找到一张肖邦的小夜曲合辑。我让它安静地播放着,然后又躺下了,全神贯注地放松我身体的某些特定部分。在进行到这种练习的某个地方时,感冒药生效了,我愉快地陷入了昏睡之中。

我醒得很早,幸亏我无端的服用药物,我一夜无梦酣眠。虽然我休息得很好,我还是立刻陷入了昨晚那种头脑发热的狂乱中。我急急忙忙地穿上衣服,抚平脖子上的衣领,不停地摆弄那件棕褐色的毛衣直到它稳稳当当地盖过我的牛仔裤为止。我鬼鬼祟祟地向窗外看了一眼,看见查理已经走了。一层絮状的薄云遮蔽了天空。它们看上去不会持续太久的。

我食不知味地吃完了早餐,然后赶紧去把碗洗干净。我又一次向窗口偷看,但什么都没有改变。我刚刚刷完牙,回到楼下的时候,一阵安静的敲门声响了起来,我的心脏宛如小鸟一般在我的肋骨筑成的笼子里砰然乱撞。

我飞奔到门口,在打开那个简单的插销时遇到了一点困难,但我最终把门拉开了,而他就在那里。当我看到他的脸的那一刻,所有的兴奋都烟消云散了,被平静取而代之。我如释重负地松了一口气——他在这里,昨天的恐惧显得非常荒谬。

起初他并没有微笑——他的脸色很严峻。但在他上上下下地把我检查了一遍以后,他的神情明朗起来,他笑了。

“早上好。”他轻笑着说。

“怎么了?”我低头审视着,确认自己没有忘记任何重要的细节,比方说鞋子,或者裤子。

“我们很般配。”他又笑了起来。我意识到他穿了一件长长的浅棕褐色毛衣,底下穿了一件白色的衬衫,还有蓝色的牛仔裤。我和他一起笑了起来,藏住了一阵隐秘的后悔的刺痛——为什么他就非得看上去像个时装模特,而我却不能呢?

在我锁门的时候,他向卡车走去。他在乘客门那儿等着,脸上写着很容易读懂的受难的表情。

“我们约好的。”我沾沾自喜地提醒他,爬进驾驶座,伸出手给他打开门。

“去哪儿?”我问道。

“系上你的安全带——我已经开始紧张了。”

我狠狠地瞪了他一眼,这才顺从了他的命令。

“去哪儿?”我叹了口气,重复道。

“开上北边的101国道。”他下令道。

当我感觉他在注视着我的脸的时候,要把注意力集中在路况上是一件困难得惊人的事。我只得比平常还要小心地驾驶,穿过这座仍在沉睡的城镇。

“你打算在傍晚以前把车开出福克斯吗?”

“这车老得能当你那辆车的爷爷了——对它尊重一点。”我回嘴道。

与他消极的估计相反,我们很快便开出了小镇的范围。浓密的灌木丛和覆满藤蔓的树干取代了草坪和房屋。

“右转开上110国道。”我正要开口问,他指点道。我沉默地服从了。

“现在一直开到公路尽头。”

我能听到他声音里的笑意,但我害怕开出公路,刚好证明他的担心是对的,所以没敢看过去确认一下。

“那里有什么,在公路的尽头?”我想知道。

“一条小路。”

“我们要走过去?”谢天谢地,我穿的是网球鞋。

“那是个问题吗?”他听起来像是已经预料到了。

“不。”我努力让这个谎言听起来可信些。但如果他觉得我的卡车太慢……

“别担心,那条小路只有五英里长,或者差不多,而且我们不赶时间。”
五英里。我没有回答,这样他就不会听到我因为恐惧而破碎的声音。五英里布满阴险的树根和松散的石头的小路,正阴谋着让我扭伤脚踝,或者用别的方式让我报废。这将是一次丢脸的旅途。

我思索着即将到来的惨剧,我们在沉默中开了一会儿车。

“你在想什么?”许久以后,他不耐烦地问道。

我又一次撒了谎:“只是想知道我们要去哪里?”

“那是天气好时我喜欢去的地方。”他说完后,我们都看出窗外,看着那片越来越稀薄的云层。

“查理说今天会很暖和。”

“你告诉查理你要做什么了吗?”他问道。

“没有。”

“但杰西卡认为我们会一起去西雅图?”他似乎对这念头很是高兴。

“不,我告诉她你取消了,不和我一起去——这是事实。”

“没人知道你和我在一起?”现在,生气了。

“那得看情况……我以为你告诉了爱丽丝?”

“那确实很有



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