*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 9 - THEORY
"Can I ask just one more?" I pleaded as Edward accelerated much too quickly down the quiet street. He didn't seem to be paying any attention to the road.
"One," he agreed. His lips pressed together into a cautious line.
"Well... toi a dit toi knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I had gone south. I was just wondering how toi knew that."
He looked away, deliberating.
"I thought we were past all the evasiveness," I grumbled.
He almost smiled.
"Fine, then. I followed your scent." He looked at the road, giving me time to composer my face. I couldn't think of an acceptable response to that, but I filed it carefully away for future study. I tried to refocus. I wasn't ready to let him be finished, now that he was finally explaining things.
"And then toi didn't answer one of my first questions..." I stalled.
He looked at me with disapproval "Which one?"
"How does it work - the mind-reading thing? Can toi read anybody's mind, anywhere? How do toi so it? Can the rest of your family...?" I felt silly, asking for clarification on make-believe.
"That's plus than one," he pointed out. I simply intertwinded my fingers and gazed at him, waiting.
"No, it's just me. And I can't hear anyone, anywhere. I have to be fairly close. The plus familiar someone's... 'voice' is, the farther away I can hear them. But still, no plus than a few miles." He paused thoughtfully. "It's a little like being in a huge hall filled with people, everyone talking at once. It's just a hum - a buzzing of voices in the background. Until I focus on one voice, and then what they're thinking is clear.
"Most of the time I tune it all out - it can be very distracting. And then it's easier to seem normal" - he frowned as he a dit the word - "when I'm not accidentally answering someone's thoughts rather than their words."
"Why do toi think toi can't hear me?" I asked curiously.
He looked at me, his eyes enigmatic.
"I don't know," he murmured. "The only guess I have is that maybe your mind doesn't work the same way the rest of theirs do. Like your thoughts are on the AM frequency and I'm only getting FM." He grinned at me, suddenly amused.
"My mind doesn't work right? I'm a freak?" The words bothered me plus than they should - probably because his speculation hit home. I'd always suspected as much, and it embarrassed me to have it confirmed.
"I hear voices in my head and you're worried that you're the freak," he laughed. "Don't worry, it's just a theory...." His face tightened. "Which brings us back to you."
I sighed. How to begin?
"Aren't we past all the evasions now?" he reminded me softly.
I looked away from his face for the first time, trying to find words. I happened to notice the speedometer.
"Holy crow!" I shouted. "Slow down!"
"What's wrong?" He was startled. But the car didn't decelerate.
"You're going a hundred miles and hour!" I was still shouting. I shot a panicky glance out the window, but it was too dark to see much. The road was only visible in the long patch of bluish brightness from the headlights. The forest along both sides of the road was like a black mur - as hard as a mur of steel if we veered off the road at this speed.
"Relax, Bella." He rolld his eyes still not slowing.
"Are toi trying to kill us?" I demanded.
"We're not going to crash."
I tried to modulate my voice. "Why are toi in such a hurry?"
"I always drive like this." He turned to smile crookedly at me.
"Keep your eyes on the road!"
"I've never been in an accident, Bella - I've never even gotten a ticket." He grinned and tapped his forehead. "Built-in radar detector."
"Very funny." I fumed. "Charlie's a cop, remember? I was raised to abide the traffic laws. Besides, if toi turn us into a Volvo bretzel around a arbre trunk, toi can probably just walk away."
"Probably," he agreed with a short, hard laugh. "But toi can't." He sighed, and I watched with relief as the needle gradually drifted toward eighty. "Happy?"
"I hate driving slow," he murmured.
"This is slow?"
"Enough commentary on my driving," he snapped. "I'm still waiting for your latest theory."
I bit my lip. He looked down at me, his honey eyes unexpectedly gentle.
"I won't laugh," he promised.
"I'm plus afraid that you'll be angry with me."
"Is it that bad?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
He waited. I was looking down at my hands, so I couldn't see his expression.
"Go ahead." His voice was calm.
"I don't know how to start," I admitted.
"Why don't toi start at the beginning... toi a dit toi didn't come up with this on your own."
"What got toi started - a book? A movie?" he probed.
"No - it was Saturday, at the beach." I risked a glance up at his face. He looked puzzled.
"I ran into an old family friend - Jacob Black," I continued. "His dad and Charlie have been Friends since I was a baby."
He still looked confused.
"His dad is one of the Quileute elders." I watched him carefully. His confused expression froze in place. "We went for a walk - " I edited all my scheming out of the story " - and he was telling me some old legends - trying to scare me, I think. He told me one..." I hesitated.
"Go on," he said.
"About vampires." I realized I was whispering. I couldn't look at his face now. But I saw his knuckles tighten convulsively on the wheel.
"And toi immediately thought of me?" Still calm.
"No. He... mentioned your family."
He was silent, staring at the road.
I was worried suddenly, worried about protecting Jacob.
"He just thought it was a silly superstition," I a dit quickly. "He didn't expect me to think anything of it." It didn't seem like enough; I had to confess. "It was my fault, I forced him to tell me."
"Lauren a dit something about toi - she was trying to provoke me. And an older boy from the tribe a dit toi family didn't come to the reservation, only it sounded like he meant something different. So I got Jacob alone and I tricked it out of him," I admitted, hanging my head.
He startled me par laughing. I glared up at him. He was laughing, but his eyes were fierce, staring ahead.
"Tricked him how?" he asked.
"I tried ti flirt - it worked better than I thought it would." Disbelief colored my tone as I remembered.
"I'd like to have seen that." He chuckled darkly. "And toi accused me of dazzling people - poor Jacob Black."
I blushed and looked out my window into the night.
"What did toi do then?" he asked after a minute.
"I did some research on the Internet."
"And did that convince you?" His voice sounded barely interested. But his hands were clamped hard onto the steering wheel.
"No. Nothing fit. Most of it was kind of silly. And then..." I stopped.
"I decided it didn't matter," I whispered.
"It doesn't matter?" His tone made me look up - I had finally broken through his carefully composed mask. His face was incredulous, with just a hint of the anger I'd feared.
"No," I a dit softly. "It doesn't matter to me what toi are."
A hard, mocking edge entered his voice. "You don't care if I'm a monster? If I'm not human?"