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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.


Notes:
I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.


3. Chapter 3 - The Second Time

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3167   Review this Chapter

Chapter 3 – The Second Time

The next morning arrived without fog leaking from the forest. Instead, the rain of yesterday had turned to sleet and the forest resembled a frozen fairyland. A thin layer of ice coated every needle of the evergreens, and sparkled in the early morning light. I hunted just before sunrise, ground crunching under my swiftly moving feet.

Everyone in my family had expressed their admiration at my ability to survive Biology the day before—or rather my ability to not kill Bella. I felt an incredible relief. I no longer seemed poised to expose my family at any moment due to my unfortunate weakness for a particular human girl. Still, a strange excitement filled me, a kind of anticipation, waiting for the morning to arrive. I wanted to go back. I wanted to see her again.

This was not a good thing. I knew Bella was dangerous for me; indeed, for our whole family. I shouldn’t want to go back into a situation every day that could mean the end of our lives here in Forks. But I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

We departed early for school, and I, perhaps, drove a little too fast. I hated going slow, especially when driving, and today I was eager to get to school—something that gave me pause. I couldn’t remember ever wanting that before. But today ice covered the roads as well as the forest, and everyone drove unnaturally slowly, even for humans. The few drivers on the road surely thought me reckless as I edged the speedometer forward whenever possible, confident my reflexes were more than adequate to the icy conditions.

As we slipped out of our car at school, I saw her outrageous tank of a truck pull into the parking lot. I felt sorry for any car that monster crashed into—nothing but shrapnel would be left. At least she had the sense to put some tire chains on, sparing some imported car an untimely death. She pulled into a spot four cars down from ours and got out. She walked to the back of the truck, inspecting the tire chains and holding onto the side of her truck for dear life. I smiled, and I noticed that my brothers and sisters were wondering why I wasn’t coming, standing here staring at Bella staring at her tires.

I was about to turn away from her, so they wouldn’t notice my preoccupation, when I heard an odd high-pitched sound which rapidly escalated.

I stared in horror as I realized what was happening. A dark blue van was skidding, tires locked and squealing against the brakes, spinning wildly across the ice of the parking lot. It was going to crush Bella against the back corner of her truck. Bella turned and saw me, looked straight into my eyes, and then saw the oncoming van hurtling toward her.

NO! Not her! An instant later, I shot to her side and pushed her out of the path of the oncoming van. Her head hit the icy blacktop next to the tan car beside her truck, and I fell on top of her, protecting her and pinning her to the ground. The van crashed against her truck bed and started curling gratingly around the end of the truck, still spinning and sliding, and was about to crush Bella again.

I swore under my breath and flung my hands out in front of her to stop the van, creating a large dent in the side of the van’s body. Bracing myself against the tan car, I put one hand under the body of the van to keep it from landing on top of her. I dragged her out from under the van, swinging her around until her legs were free. I dropped the van and it settled, glass popping and metal groaning, onto the asphalt, exactly where Bella had been a moment ago. The other students started screaming.

“Bella? Are you all right?” I whispered softly, frantically into her ear. Please let her be all right.

“I’m fine,” she said, muffled against my body. I still held her tight against me, not willing to let her go, yet.

“Be careful,” I said, “I think you hit your head pretty hard.” I had to think quickly. Did she realize what I had done? What did I just do, in front of everyone??

“Ow,” she said, seeming surprised that she was at all hurt.

“That’s what I thought,” I nearly laughed out loud. Nearly crushed by a van, and all she says is “ow”!

“How in the…” she started to say, “How did you get over here so fast?”

She saw me. Did nothing escape this amazingly observant girl? “I was standing right next to you, Bella,” I said, trying to be as convincing as I could. I gave her the full force of my stare. She turned to sit up, and I released her, realizing I had held on to her much longer than I needed to. I slid as far away from her as I could in the cramped space between the wrecked vehicles. She looked at me and seemed a little disoriented. Good.

The crowd found us, crying and shouting at us. “Don’t move,” someone yelled. “Get Tyler out of the van!” ordered someone else. Activity flurried around us, but hadn’t reached us yet. We had only a few moments, and I needed to get control of this situation quickly.

Bella tried to get up but I gently pushed her shoulder down. “Just stay put for now.”

“But it’s cold,” she complained. I tried not to laugh again. She didn’t seem to understand what had happened, which was another good sign—perhaps she had hit her head hard enough to be confused, enough to forget…

“You were over there,” she said suddenly, “You were by your car.”

“No, I wasn’t,” I said, coldly.

“I saw you,” she retorted. Chaos surrounded us. Adults arrived on the scene. I had to hurry.

“Bella, I was standing with you, and I pulled you out of the way.” I stared at her with all my persuasive powers brought to bear. She must believe this. Otherwise I had just risked exposing all of us, putting my whole family at risk…again.

“No,” she said, obstinately.

No. No. No. “Please, Bella,” I begged, trying through sheer will get her to agree.

“Why?” she demanded.

“Trust me,” I pleaded, switching to soft persuasion. Please, Bella. I was running out of time…

“Will you promise to explain everything to me later?” she demanded.

“Fine!” I snapped. Clearly I was not going to be able to convince her. Damn!

“Fine,” she said.

It took several adults to move the van far enough away from us to bring the stretchers in. I obviously didn’t need one, but I insisted that Bella did, saying she hit her head and probably had a concussion. Maybe they wouldn’t believe whatever crazy things she might say about speeding vans stopped with my bare hands, if they thought she was in shock. They loaded her into the back of the ambulance. I could hear my family’s outraged thoughts as I climbed up in the front seat of the ambulance. They were convinced that I had endangered them all, and I wasn’t sure they were wrong. If only it was as easy to persuade Bella that she didn’t see what she saw, as it was to persuade the EMT’s that I had survived a major car wreck without a scratch. If only I could hear what she was thinking…at least she wasn’t saying anything…yet.

Chief Swan, Bella’s father, arrived before we left.

“Bella!” he yelled, obviously panicked when he saw Bella on the stretcher. Strangely, he wasn’t surprised to see her hurt. Apparently, she was often that way—he just wanted to know how bad it was this time. All the same, his tremendous love and concern for her was very clear, as well as Bella’s insistence in not causing concern in any way. This was a scene they had played many times, although not so dramatically.

“I’m completely fine, Char—Dad,” she sighed. “There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Charlie checked with the EMT, and decided that the ambulance required a police escort. Once we were at the hospital, I went in search of Carlisle, still listening carefully to hear what Bella might say. They took her to the emergency room where the nurse tended to her with a pressure cuff and a thermometer. I tracked Bella through the nurse’s thoughts while driver of the van, Tyler Crowley, was wheeled into the ER next to Bella. Tyler had not escaped unharmed, and had already been bandaged up by the EMTs.

“Bella, I’m so sorry!” I heard him say. He was absolutely panicked, a jumble of crazed thoughts. He was in shock.

“I’m fine, Tyler—you look awful, are you all right?” said Bella. I paused in the corridor, listening to see what she would say to Tyler about the accident.

“I thought I was going to kill you! I was going too fast, and I hit the ice wrong…” Tyler babbled on.

“Don’t worry about it; you missed me,” said Bella.

“How did you get out of the way so fast? You were there, and then you were gone…”

“Umm…Edward pulled me out of the way.” I froze. Please, Bella.Don’t say anything.

“Who?”

“Edward Cullen—he was standing next to me.” She was a terrible liar, but she was trying. Good. I kept walking. I needed to find Carlisle before the situation got any more out of hand.

Carlisle was heading toward the ER, when I intercepted him in the hall. Alice had called him and told him everything.

What is she saying, Edward? Carlisle thought as he saw me coming.

“It’s okay, she’s fine,” I said, quiet and low. “She’s not saying anything.”

She’s in shock now…when she comes out of it? Carlisle thought. I couldn’t answer…I didn’t know. Bella should be in shock. She had almost been killed, witnessed something impossible, and somehow took it in stride and had an uncanny ability to see things exactly as they were. A spike of guilt and panic gripped me. Once again, I had put my family in incredible danger. If there was any way out of this, Carlisle would know.

“She hit her head in the accident,” I explained, hoping that might give us some cover. It might not be enough, Carlisle thought. Everything hinges on what she says.

“I’m going to go check on her.” I turned and walked back to the ER, thinking how best to keep our family’s secret. I simply had to convince Bella that she had not seen what she had seen. And with soft persuasion this time, I decided. I needed to get her out of there, before she started talking to too many people.

Tyler mumbled to himself, some kind of repetitive apology directed at Bella. The smell of his bandaged cuts, still bleeding underneath the bandages, washed over me. Being near that much exposed blood would normally have sent me scurrying from the room, but Tyler had nothing on Bella and the attraction her blood held for me. I barely noticed his wounds. Bella’s eyes were closed. I could hear from her heart beating steadily in her chest that she was not asleep.

“Is she sleeping?” I asked softly, smirking at her, and her eyes flew open.

“Hey, Edward, I’m really sorry—“ said Tyler.

I held up a hand to stop him. “No blood, no foul,” I said, smiling widely at him and internally laughing at my own joke. I suppressed a manic giggle in order to keep up the façade. I sat on the edge of Tyler’s bed, facing Bella and grinning.

“So, what’s the verdict?” I asked, trying to keep the conversation as light as possible to disarm her.

“There’s nothing wrong with me at all, but they won’t let me go,” she complained. “How come you aren’t strapped to a gurney like the rest of us?”

“It’s all about who you know,” I said. “But don’t worry, I came to spring you.”

No doubt hearing me, Carlisle chose that moment to come in. He had long ago conquered his attraction to human blood, working fearlessly in a hospital surrounded by injured humans. To the outside world, Carlisle looked impossibly young to be a doctor—boyish face, blonde hair falling across his flat black eyes. He had that typical tired-looking, circles-under-the-eyes physician look of too many hours on the shift. But I knew it was the strain of not hunting—it had been many days since he had broken from work to venture into the forest. I was amazed that he could work here without hunting constantly. Seeing him walk easily in the ER reminded me—he was a better person than I ever could be.

“So, Miss Swan,” Carlisle said, “how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.” Carlisle walked over to the light-board on the wall over her head and turned it on.

“Your X-rays look good,” he said. “Does your head hurt? Edward said you hit it pretty hard.” Maybe convincing everyone that Bella hit her head and was making no sense wouldn’t be hard to do. I smiled slightly.

“It’s fine,” she said again, with a sigh, giving me a scowl. Carlisle felt cautiously along her skull. “Tender?” he asked when she winced.

“Not really,” she said, apparently ever the stoic.

“Well, your father is in the waiting room—you can go home with him now. But come back if you feel dizzy or have trouble with your eyesight at all.”

“Can’t I go back to school?” she asked.

“Maybe you should take it easy today,” Carlisle suggested.

She looked at me. “Does he get to go to school?” she asked, clearly disgusted.

“Someone has to spread the good news that we survived,” I said smugly. This was going to be easier than I thought.

“Actually,” Carlisle corrected, “most of the school seems to be in the waiting room.”

“Oh no,” she moaned, covering her face with her hands. Being nearly crushed by the van had little impact on her, but facing a roomful of well-wishing classmates was apparently a trauma. I stared at her, trying to piece her together. She didn’t like to be the center of attention…

“Do you want to stay?” Carlisle asked.

“No, no!” she insisted, throwing her legs over the side of the bed and gracelessly hopping down…and staggering so that Carlisle had to catch her. He looked concerned, and I had a flash of concern myself. Maybe that hit on the head was more than it appeared.

“I’m fine,” she assured him.

“Take some Tylenol for the pain,” he suggested as he steadied her.

“It doesn’t hurt that bad,” she insisted.

“It sounds like you were extremely lucky,” Carlisle said, smiling as he signed her chart. Maybe she doesn’t remember what happened? he thought for my benefit.

“Lucky Edward happened to be standing next to me,” Bella added with a hard look at me.

“Oh, well, yes,” Carlisle agreed, looking at his papers. She does remember, Edward. Something has to be done. I clenched my jaw. This was not going to be easy after all. Carlisle looked away, at Tyler, and walked to the next bed. “I’m afraid you’ll have to stay with us just a little bit longer,” he said to Tyler, checking his cuts.

Bella moved suddenly to my side. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” she hissed at me. I stepped back from her. She was constantly surprising me. In spite of our recent encounter at the van crash, I wasn’t used to having her so close to me, breathing at me.

“Your father is waiting for you,” I said between my teeth, trying not to breathe in.

She looked at Carlisle and Tyler and insisted, “I’d like to speak with you alone, if you don’t mind.”

I glared at her and turned and walked out of the room. My plans to softly convince her that she was mistaken about what she saw were evaporating under my anger. She didn’t realize how dangerous this situation was for me, for my family. Once we were in the hallway, alone, I turned to face her.

“What do you want?” I asked, my anger spilling out.

“You owe me an explanation,” she said simply.

“I saved your life—I don’t owe you anything.” This was vastly more complicated than she knew and she was making demands! Demands I couldn’t ever meet…

“You promised.”

“Bella, you hit your head, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” My tone was harsh. I knew it was useless. Somehow this strange girl was immune to all my powers of persuasion and I had just risked everything, everything, to save her.

“There’s nothing wrong with my head,” she shot back.

“What do you want from me, Bella?” I glared at her.

“I want to know the truth,” she said. “I want to know why I’m lying for you.”

Well, she certainly wasn’t going to get the truth! My anger reached a peak.

“What do you think happened?” I snapped.

She started babbling. “All I know is that you weren’t anywhere near me—Tyler didn’t see you, either, so don’t tell me I hit my head too hard. That van was going to crush us both—and it didn’t, and your hands left dents in the side of it—and you left a dent in the other car, and you’re not hurt at all—and the van should have smashed my legs, but you were holding it up…” she stopped, breathless. She looked like she was going to cry.

I couldn’t believe this. This impossible girl, this impossibly observant girl, had seen everything.

“You think I lifted a van off you?” I ridiculed her, hoping desperately that I could convince her of how crazy that sounded. She nodded.

“Nobody will believe that, you know,” I said with derision. She was an outsider, she didn’t like attention—maybe she would hesitate to tell wild tales, knowing no one would believe her. I was starting to panic.

“I’m not going to tell anybody,” she said slowly.

What? “Then why does it matter?” Her words didn’t make sense and I didn’t understand—could she possibly mean this?

“It matters to me,” she insisted. “I don’t like to lie—so there’d better be a good reason why I’m doing it.”

“Can’t you just thank me and get over it?” Please, Bella.

“Thank you.”

“You’re not going to let it go, are you?” Why did she have to be so stubborn?

“No.”

“In that case…” What could I do with her—with this insane situation? Could I really trust that she would keep her promise, and not tell anyone? Did I have a choice? The only other choice was something I wasn’t willing to consider, even in my own thoughts. “… I hope you enjoy disappointment.”

We scowled at each other in silence. I couldn’t believe we were arguing like this. If I could read her, if I could just know what she meant, this would be so much easier. There was too much at stake.

“Why did you even bother?” she asked coldly. This I didn’t expect. Why did I do it? Why did I save her? Why didn’t I just let her get crushed in front of my eyes, removing the torment that she embodied? Why did I care?

“I don’t know,” I whispered, shocked at my own answer. I turned and walked away, my body full of anger, but my mind whirling in confusion. I needed to get, and stay, far away from Bella Swan.