Chapter Three: Just Another School Day

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 Chapter Three: Just Another School Day

Charlie had put his foot down: I was no longer allowed to drive Bella to school each morning, and Bella now had curfews on school nights. He was reacting, rightly so, to Bella's leaving on her disastrous trip south as she "left me"--all a ruse, of course, to shield Bella's father from the danger of the tracker who had sought Bella so single-mindedly-James, who had nearly killed her. Charlie blamed me for Bella's hurtful words when she left home, and he blamed me for her injuries in Phoenix-again rightly so. Bella was furious at her father, but I attempted to soothe her. These steps were minimal-at least he still allowed Bella to spend her afternoons and evenings with me-and, of course, he remains unaware that I spend each night in her room.

Fortunately, Bella and I only have a week left of school, and then the summer stretches before us. I can tell that she is excited about spending more time with me, and of course, I want to spend every second of every day in her presence, but something keeps me from total happiness: the complete opposite-fear. I know that every minute that Bella spends in my presence endangers her-especially around my family. I still don't trust Jasper, despite his help in Phoenix a few weeks ago. I've warned him to back off from Bella again, and I know that she's noticed...I see her forehead crease with concern when he keeps his distance. Perhaps she thinks he doesn't like her. I would rather she think that than having her know the truth: he struggles with her presence more than even I do, and my greatest fear is that he will lose control around her and she could be injured...or worse. Much worse.

Leaning against my still-warm Volvo in the school lot this morning, I continued waiting for her. The rest of my family have already left the car for their first class. I checked my watch again; Bella was running late, most likely a result of her decrepit truck. At last I picked up the familiar sound of the chugging of the truck's ancient engine, and I stood up, impatient to be with her again. I couldn't help smiling to myself; here I was, impatient for the burning in my throat to start. But being with Bella-receiving her smiles, seeing the intuition flash in her eyes as she saw past my pretenses, being the center of her world-all this brought me greater joy than I had ever imagined.

I shook my head. But it shouldn't be so. I worried for her, worried about her being in the company of myself, of my family, so constantly-worried that something would happen to her, and that I wouldn't have the sixty or so years of her human life to be with her. I sighed. There just didn't seem to be a way to be happy with her and to keep her safe at the same time. It was a balancing act on the thinnest of tightropes, and the slightest imbalance could send us tumbling down to destruction. Or, rather, send HER to destruction....

The truck turned into the high school parking lot, and as I scanned Bella's face as she steered the behemoth into a nearby space. She looked a little tired. She hadn't slept very well since the prom, as if she too were worried about something. The crease on her forehead disappeared as she caught my gaze in the depths of her chocolate-brown eyes, and I was lost in her warm gaze ... again. And she accuses ME of dazzling HER. But again the venom welling in my mouth, my muscles tensing to spring, my throat bursting into flame-all these signs of who I am seemed to disappear as she approached me, and joy became the overwhelming emotion I felt. I savored it, knowing that our balancing act could end at any time. Bella was human, and as long as she remained so, she remained in danger. But the alternative-robbing her of life and soul-frightened me far worse. It was truly a dilemma, one I couldn't solve today ... or perhaps ever.

I looked down at her smiling face as she approached me, and she craned her neck upward to see me better, the light drizzle dampening her translucent skin. Her eyes became unfocused as she took a deep breath-apparently she was nearly as "dazzled" by me as I was by her.

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