It was absolutely silent for one long second before the screaming began. In the abrupt bedlam, I could hear more than one person shouting my name. But more clearly than all the yelling, I could hear Edward Cullen’s low, frantic voice in my ear.
“Bella? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” My voice sounded strange. I tried to sit up, and realized he was holding me against the side of his body in an iron grasp.
“Be careful,” he warned as I struggled. “I think you hit your head pretty hard.” I became aware of a throbbing ache centered above my left ear.
“Ow,” I said, surprised.
“That’s what I thought.” His voice, amazingly, sounded like he was suppressing laughter.
“How in the…” I trailed off, trying to clear my head, get my bearings. “How did you get over here so fast?”
“I was standing right next to you, Bella,” he
said, his tone serious again.
I turned to sit up, and this time he let me, releasing his hold around my waist and sliding as far from me as he could in the limited space. I looked at his concerned, innocent expression and was disoriented again by the force of his gold-colored eyes. What was I asking him?
And then they found us, a crowd of people with tears streaming down their faces, shouting at each other, shouting at us.
“Don’t move,” someone instructed.
“Get Tyler out of the van!” someone else shouted.
There was a flurry of activity around us. I tried to get up, but Edward’s cold hand pushed my shoulder down.
“Just stay put for now.”
“But it’s cold,” I complained. It surprised me when he chuckled under his breath. There was an edge to the sound.
“You were over there,” I suddenly remembered, and his chuckle stopped short.
“You were by your car.”
His expression turned hard. “No, I wasn’t.”
“I saw you.” All around us was chaos. I could hear the gruffer voices of adults arriving on the scene. But I obstinately held on to our argument; I was right, and he was going to admit it.
“Bella, I was standing with you, and I pulled you out of the way.” He unleashed the full, devastating power of his eyes on me, as if trying to communicate something crucial.
“No.” I set my jaw.
The gold in his eyes blazed. “Please, Bella.”
“Why?” I demanded.
“Trust me,” he pleaded, his soft voice overwhelming.
I could hear the sirens now. “Will you promise to explain everything to me later?”
“Fine,” he snapped, abruptly exasperated.
“Fine,” I repeated angrily.
It took six EMTs and two teachers – Mr. Varner and Coach Clapp – to shift the van far enough away from us to bring the stretchers in. Edward vehemently refused his, and I tried to do the same, but the traitor told them I’d hit my head and probably had a concussion. I almost died of humiliation when they put on the neck brace. It looked like the entire school was there, watching soberly as they loaded me in the back of the ambulance. Edward got to ride in the front. It was maddening.
To make matters worse, Chief Swan arrived before they could get me safely away.
“Bella!” he yelled in panic when he recognized me on the stretcher.
“I’m completely fine, Char – Dad,” I sighed. “There’s nothing wrong with me.” He turned to the closest EMT for a second opinion. I tuned him out to consider the jumble of inexplicable images churning chaotically in my head.