As soon as the door opened I was off again, to the sound of annoyed murmurs behind me. I slowed myself as I passed the security guards by the luggage carousels, only to break into a run again as the exit doors came into view. I had no way of knowing if Jasper was looking for me yet.
I would have only seconds if he was following my scent. I jumped out the automatic doors, nearly smacking into the glass when they opened too slowly.
Along the crowded curb there wasn't a cab in sight.
I had no time. Alice and Jasper were either about to realize I was gone, or they already had. They would find me in a heartbeat.
A shuttle to the Hyatt was just closing its doors a few feet behind me.
"Wait!" I called, running, waving at the driver.
"This is the shuttle to the Hyatt," the driver said in confusion as he opened the doors.
"Yes," I huffed, "that's where I'm going." I hurried up the steps.
He looked askance at my luggage-less state, but then shrugged, not caring enough to ask.
Most of the seats were empty. I sat as far from the other travelers as possible, and watched out the window as first the sidewalk, and then the airport, drifted away. I couldn't help imagining Edward, where he would stand at the edge of the road when he found the end of my trail. I couldn't cry yet, I told myself. I still had a long way to go.
My luck held. In front of the Hyatt, a tired-looking couple was getting their last suitcase out of the trunk of a cab. I jumped out of the shuttle and ran to the cab, sliding into the seat behind the driver. The tired couple and the shuttle driver stared at me.
I told the surprised cabbie my mother's address. "I need to get there as soon as possible."
"That's in Scottsdale," he complained.
I threw four twenties over the seat.
"Will that be enough?"
"Sure, kid, no problem."
I sat back against the seat, folding my arms across my lap. The familiar city began to rush around me, but I didn't look out the windows. I exerted myself to maintain control. I was determined not to lose myself at this point, now that my plan was successfully completed. There was no point in indulging in more terror, more anxiety. My path was set. I just had to follow it now.
So, instead of panicking, I closed my eyes and spent the twenty minutes' drive with Edward.
I imagined that I had stayed at the airport to meet Edward. I visualized how I would stand on my toes, the sooner to see his face. How quickly, how gracefully he would move through the crowds of people separating us. And then I would run to close those last few feet between us — reckless as always — and I would be in his marble arms, finally safe.
I wondered where we would have gone. North somewhere, so he could be outside in the day. Or maybe somewhere very remote, so we could lay in the sun together again. I imagined him by the shore, his skin sparkling like the sea. It wouldn't matter how long we had to hide. To be trapped in a hotel room with him would be a kind of heaven. So many questions I still had for him. I could talk to him forever, never sleeping, never leaving his side.
I could see his face so clearly now… almost hear his voice. And, despite all the horror and hopelessness, I was fleetingly happy. So involved was I in my escapist daydreams, I lost all track of the seconds racing by.
"Hey, what was the number?"
The cabbie's question punctured my fantasy, letting all the colors run out of my lovely delusions. Fear, bleak and hard, was waiting to fill the empty space they left behind.
"Fifty-eight twenty-one." My voice sounded strangled. The cabbie looked at me, nervous that I was having an episode or something.
"Here we are, then." He was anxious to get me out of his car, probably hoping I wouldn't ask for my change.
"Thank you," I whispered. There was no need to be afraid, I reminded myself. The house was empty. I had to hurry; my mom was waiting for me, frightened, depending on me.
I ran to the door, reaching up automatically to grab the key under the eave. I unlocked the door. It was dark inside, empty, normal. I ran to the phone, turning on the kitchen light on my way. There, on the whiteboard, was a ten-digit number written in a small, neat hand. My fingers stumbled over the keypad, making mistakes. I had to hang up and start again. I concentrated only on the buttons this time, carefully pressing each one in turn. I was successful. I held the phone to my ear with a shaking hand. It rang only once.
"Hello, Bella," that easy voice answered. "That was very quick. I'm impressed."
"Is my mom all right?"
"She's perfectly fine. Don't worry, Bella, I have no quarrel with her. Unless you didn't come alone, of course." Light, amused.
"I'm alone." I'd never been more alone in my entire life.
"Very good. Now, do you know the ballet studio just around the corner from your home?"
"Yes. I know how to get there."
"Well, then, I'll see you very soon."
I hung up.
I ran from the room, through the door, out into the baking heat.
There was no time to look back at my house, and I didn't want to see it as it was now — empty, a symbol of fear instead of sanctuary. The last person to walk through those familiar rooms was my enemy.
From the corner of my eye, I could almost see my mother standing in the shade of the big eucalyptus tree where I'd played as a child. Or kneeling by the little plot of dirt around the mailbox, the cemetery of all the flowers she'd tried to grow. The memories were better than any reality I would see today. But I raced away from them, toward the corner, leaving everything behind me.
I felt so slow, like I was running through wet sand — I couldn't seem to get enough purchase from the concrete. I tripped several times, once falling, catching myself with my hands, scraping them on the sidewalk, and then lurching up to plunge forward again. But at last I made it to the corner. Just another street now; I ran, sweat pouring down my face, gasping. The sun was hot on my skin, too bright as it bounced off the white concrete and blinded me. I felt dangerously exposed. More fiercely than I would have dreamed I was capable of, I wished for the green, protective forests of Forks… of home.
When I rounded the last corner, onto Cactus, I could see the studio, looking just as I remembered it. The parking lot in front was empty, the vertical blinds in all the windows drawn. I couldn't run anymore — I couldn't breathe; exertion and fear had gotten the best of me. I thought of my mother to keep my feet moving, one in front of the other.
As I got closer, I could see the sign inside the door. It was handwritten on hot pink paper; it said the dance studio was closed for spring break. I touched the handle, tugged on it cautiously. It was unlocked. I fought to catch my breath, and opened the door.
The lobby was dark and empty, cool, the air conditioner thrumming. The plastic molded chairs were stacked along the walls, and the carpet smelled like shampoo. The west dance floor was dark, I could see through the open viewing window. The east dance floor, the bigger room, was lit. But the blinds were closed on the window.
Terror seized me so strongly that I was literally trapped by it. I couldn't make my feet move forward.
And then my mother's voice called.
"Bella? Bella?" That same tone of hysterical panic. I sprinted to the door, to the sound of her voice.
"Bella, you scared me! Don't you ever do that to me again!" Her voice continued as I ran into the long, high-ceilinged room.
I stared around me, trying to find where her voice was coming from. I heard her laugh, and I whirled to the sound.
There she was, on the TV screen, tousling my hair in relief. It was Thanksgiving, and I was twelve. We'd gone to see my grandmother in California, the last year before she died. We went to the beach one day, and I'd leaned too far over the edge of the pier. She'd seen my feet flailing, trying to reclaim my balance. "Bella? Bella?" she'd called to me in fear.
And then the TV screen was blue.
I turned slowly. He was standing very still by the back exit, so still I hadn't noticed him at first. In his hand was a remote control. We stared at each other for a long moment, and then he smiled.
He walked toward me, quite close, and then passed me to put the remote down next to the VCR. I turned carefully to watch him.
"Sorry about that, Bella, but isn't it better that your mother didn't really have to be involved in all this?" His voice was courteous, kind.
And suddenly it hit me. My mother was safe. She was still in Florida. She'd never gotten my message. She'd never been terrified by the dark red eyes in the abnormally pale face before me. She was safe.
"Yes," I answered, my voice saturated with relief.
"You don't sound angry that I tricked you." "I'm not." My sudden high made me brave. What did it matter now? It would soon be over. Charlie and Mom would never be harmed, would never have to fear. I felt almost giddy. Some analytical part of my mind warned me that I was dangerously close to snapping from the stress.
"How odd. You really mean it." His dark eyes assessed me with interest. The irises were nearly black, just a hint of ruby around the edges. Thirsty. "I will give your strange coven this much, you humans can be quite interesting. I guess I can see the draw of observing you. It's amazing — some of you seem to have no sense of your own self-interest at all."