2011-3-15 16:58





It had taken much less time than I'd thought — all the terror, the despair, the shattering of my heart. The minutes were ticking by more slowly than usual. Jasper still hadn't come back when I returned to Alice. I was afraid to be in the same room with her, afraid that she would guess… and afraid to hide from her for the same reason.

I would have thought I was far beyond the ability to be surprised, my thoughts tortured and unstable, but I was surprised when I saw Alice bent over the desk, gripping the edge with two hands. "Alice?"

She didn't react when I called her name, but her head was slowly rocking side to side, and I saw her face. Her eyes were blank, dazed… My thoughts flew to my mother. Was I already too late?

I hurried to her side, reaching out automatically to touch her hand.

"Alice!" Jasper's voice whipped, and then he was right behind her, his hands curling over hers, loosening them from their grip on the table. Across the room, the door swung shut with a low click.

"What is it?" he demanded.

She turned her face away from me, into his chest. "Bella," she said.

"I'm right here," I replied.

Her head twisted around, her eyes locking on mine, their expression still strangely blank. I realized at once that she hadn't been speaking to me, she'd been answering Jasper's question.

"What did you see?" I said — and there was no question in my flat, uncaring voice.

Jasper looked at me sharply. I kept my expression vacant and waited. His eyes were confused as they flickered swiftly between Alice's face and mine, feeling the chaos… for I could guess what Alice had seen now.

I felt a tranquil atmosphere settle around me. I welcomed it, using it to keep my emotions disciplined, under control.

Alice, too, recovered herself.

"Nothing, really," she answered finally, her voice remarkably calm and convincing. "Just the same room as before."

She finally looked at me, her expression smooth and withdrawn. "Did you want breakfast?"

"No, I'll eat at the airport." I was very calm, too. I went to the bathroom to shower. Almost as if I were borrowing Jasper's strange extra sense, I could feel Alice's wild — though well-concealed — desperation to have me out of the room, to be alone with Jasper. So she could tell him that they were doing something wrong, that they were going to fail…

I got ready methodically, concentrating on each little task. I left my hair down, swirling around me, covering my face. The peaceful mood Jasper created worked its way through me and helped me think clearly. Helped me plan. I dug through my bag until I found my sock full of money. I emptied it into my pocket.

I was anxious to get to the airport, and glad when we left by seven. I sat alone this time in the back of the dark car. Alice leaned against the door, her face toward Jasper but, behind her sunglasses, shooting glances in my direction every few seconds.

"Alice?" I asked indifferently.

She was wary. "Yes?"

"How does it work? The things that you see?" I stared out the side window, and my voice sounded bored. "Edward said it wasn't definite… that things change?" It was harder than I would have thought to say his name. That must have been what alerted Jasper, why a fresh wave of serenity filled the car.

"Yes, things change…" she murmured — hopefully, I thought. "Some things are more certain than others… like the weather. People are harder. I only see the course they're on while they're on it. Once they change their minds — make a new decision, no matter how small — the whole future shifts." I nodded thoughtfully. "So you couldn't see James in Phoenix until he decided to come here."

"Yes," she agreed, wary again.

And she hadn't seen me in the mirror room with James until I'd made the decision to meet him there. I tried not to think about what else she might have seen. I didn't want my panic to make Jasper more suspicious. They would be watching me twice as carefully now, anyway, after Alice's vision. This was going to be impossible.

We got to the airport. Luck was with me, or maybe it was just good odds. Edward's plane was landing in terminal four, the largest terminal, where most flights landed — so it wasn't surprising that his was. But it was the terminal I needed: the biggest, the most confusing. And there was a door on level three that might be the only chance.

We parked on the fourth floor of the huge garage. I led the way, for once more knowledgeable about my surroundings than they were. We took the elevator down to level three, where the passengers unloaded. Alice and Jasper spent a long time looking at the departing flights board. I could hear them discussing the pros and cons of New York, Atlanta, Chicago. Places I'd never seen. And would never see.

I waited for my opportunity, impatient, unable to stop my toe from tapping. We sat in the long rows of chairs by the metal detectors, Jasper and Alice pretending to people-watch but really watching me. Every inch I shifted in my seat was followed by a quick glance out of the corner of their eyes. It was hopeless. Should I run? Would they dare to stop me physically in this public place? Or would they simply follow?

I pulled the unmarked envelope out of my pocket and set it on top of Alice's black leather bag. She looked at me.

"My letter," I said. She nodded, tucking it under the top flap. He would find it soon enough.

The minutes passed and Edward's arrival grew closer. It was amazing how every cell in my body seemed to know he was coming, to long for his coming. That made it very hard. I found myself trying to think of excuses to stay, to see him first and then make my escape. But I knew that was impossible if I was going to have any chance to get away.

Several times Alice offered to go get breakfast with me. Later, I told her, not yet.

I stared at the arrival board, watching as flight after flight arrived on time. The flight from Seattle crept closer to the top of the board.

And then, when I had only thirty minutes to make my escape, the numbers changed. His plane was ten minutes early. I had no more time.

"I think I'll eat now," I said quickly.

Alice stood. "I'll come with you."

"Do you mind if Jasper comes instead?" I asked. "I'm feeling a little…" I didn't finish the sentence. My eyes were wild enough to convey what I didn't say.

Jasper stood up. Alice's eyes were confused, but — I saw to my relief— not suspicious. She must be attributing the change in her vision to some maneuver of the tracker's rather than a betrayal by me.

Jasper walked silently beside me, his hand on the small of my back, as if he were guiding me. I pretended a lack of interest in the first few airport cafes, my head scanning for what I really wanted. And there it was, around the corner, out of Alice's sharp sight: the level-three ladies' room.

"Do you mind?" I asked Jasper as we passed. "I'll just be a moment." "I'll be right here," he said.

As soon as the door shut behind me, I was running. I remembered the time I had gotten lost from this bathroom, because it had two exits.

Outside the far door it was only a short sprint to the elevators, and if Jasper stayed where he said he would, I'd never be in his line of sight. I didn't look behind me as I ran. This was my only chance, and even if he saw me, I had to keep going. People stared, but I ignored them. Around the corner the elevators were waiting, and I dashed forward, throwing my hand between the closing doors of a full elevator headed down. I squeezed in beside the irritated passengers, and checked to make sure that the button for level one had been pushed. It was already lit, and the doors closed.

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