BOOK ONE: BELLA
Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
I’d had more than my fair share of near death experiences; it wasn’t something you ever really got used to.
It seemed oddly inevitable, though, facing death again. Like I really was marked for disaster. I’d escaped time and time again, but it kept coming back for me.
Still, this time was so different from the others.
You could run from someone you feared, you could try to fight someone you hated. All my reactions were geared toward those kinds of killers-the monsters, the enemies.
When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you
had to give your beloved, how could you not give it?
If it was someone you truly loved?
No one is staring at you, I promised myself. No one is staring at you. No one is staring at you.
But, because I couldn’t lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.
As I sat waiting for one of the three traffic lights in town to turn green, I peeked to the right-in her minivan, Mrs. Weber had turned her whole torso in my direction. Her eyes bored into mine, and I flinched back, wondering why she didn’t drop her gaze or look ashamed. It was still considered rude to stare at people, wasn’t it? Didn’t that apply to me anymore?
Then I remembered that these windows were so darkly tinted that she probably had no idea if it was even me in here, let alone that I’d caught her looking. I tried to take some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t really staring at me, just the car.
My car. Sigh.
I glanced to the left and groaned. Two pedestrians were frozen on the sidewalk, missing their chance to cross as they stared. Behind them, Mr. Marshall was gawking through the plate glass window of his little souvenir shop. At least he didn’t have his nose pressed up against the glass. Yet.
The light turned green and, in my hurry to escape, I stomped on the gas pedal without thinking-the normal way I would have punched it to get my ancient Chevy truck moving.
Engine snarling like a hunting panther, the car jolted forward so fast that my body slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against my spine.
“Arg!” I gasped as I fumbled for the brake. Keeping my head, I merely tapped the pedal. The car lurched to an absolute standstill anyway.
I couldn’t bear to look around at the reaction. If there had been any doubt as to who was driving this car before, it was gone now. With the toe of my shoe, I gently nudged the gas pedal down one half millimeter, and the car shot forward again.
I managed to reach my goal, the gas station. If I hadn’t been running on vapors, I wouldn’t have come into town at all. I was going without a lot of things these days, like Pop Tarts and shoelaces, to avoid spending time in public.
Moving as if I were in a race, I got the hatch open, the cap off, the card scanned, and the nozzle in the tank within seconds. Of course, there was nothing I could do to make the numbers on the gauge pick up the pace. They ticked by sluggishly, almost as if they were doing it just to annoy me.
It wasn’t bright out-a typical drizzly day in Forks, Washington-but I still felt like a spotlight was trained on me, drawing attention to the delicate ring on my left hand.