Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 82)


HER DRIVING WAS JUST FINE, I HAD TO ADMIT—WHEN SHE KEPT THE speed reasonable. Like so many things, it seemed to be effortless for her. She barely looked at the road, yet the truck was always perfectly centered in her lane. She drove one-handed, because I was holding her other hand between us. Sometimes she gazed into the setting sun, which glittered off her skin in ruby-tinged shimmers. Sometimes she glanced at me—stared into my eyes or looked down at our hands twined together.

She had tuned the radio to an oldies station, and she sang along with a song I’d never heard. Her voice was as perfect as everything else about her, soaring an octave above the melody. She knew every line.

“You like fifties music?” I asked.

“Music in the fifties was good. Much better than the sixties, or the seventies, ugh!” She shuddered delicately. “The eighties were bearable.”

“Are you ever going to tell me how old you are?”

I wondered if my question would upset her buoyant mood, but she just smiled.

“Does it matter very much?”

“No, but I want to know everything about you.”

“I wonder if it will upset you,” she said to herself. She stared straight into the sun; a minute passed.

“Try me,” I finally said.

She looked into my eyes, seeming to forget the road completely for a while. Whatever she saw must have encouraged her. She turned to face the last bloodred rays of the dying sun and sighed.

“I was born in Chicago in 1901.” She paused and glanced at me from the corner of her eye. My face was carefully arranged, unsurprised, patient for the rest. She smiled a tiny smile and continued. “Carine found me in a hospital in the summer of 1918. I was seventeen, and I was dying of the Spanish influenza.”

She heard my gasp and looked up into my eyes again.

“I don’t remember it very well. It was a long time ago, and human memories fade.” She seemed lost in thought for a minute, but before I could prompt her, she went on. “I do remember how it felt when Carine saved me. It’s not an easy thing, not something you could forget.”

“Your parents?”

“They had already died from the disease. I was alone. That’s why she chose me. In all the chaos of the epidemic, no one would ever realize I was gone.”

“How did she… save you?”

A few seconds passed, and when she spoke again she seemed to be choosing her words very carefully.

“It was difficult. Not many of us have the restraint necessary to accomplish it. But Carine has always been the most humane, the most compassionate of all of us.… I don’t think you could find her equal anywhere in history.” She paused. “For me, it was merely very, very painful.”

She set her jaw, and I could tell she wasn’t going to say anything more about it. I filed it away for later. My curiosity on the subject was hardly idle. There were lots of angles I needed to think through on this particular issue, angles that were only beginning to occur to me.

Her soft voice interrupted my thoughts. “She acted from loneliness. That’s usually the reason behind the choice. I was the first in Carine’s family, though she found Earnest soon after. He fell from a cliff. They took him straight to the hospital morgue, though, somehow, his heart was still beating.”

“So you have to be dying, then.…”

“No, that’s just Carine. She would never do that to someone who had another choice, any other choice.” The respect in her voice was profound whenever she spoke of her adoptive mother. “It is easier, she says, though, if the heart is weak.” She stared at the now-dark road, and I could feel the subject closing again.

“And Eleanor and Royal?”

“Carine brought Royal into our family next. I didn’t realize till much later that she was hoping he would be to me what Earnest was to her—she was careful with her thoughts around me.” She rolled her eyes. “But he was never more than a brother. It was only two years later that he found Eleanor. He was hunting—we were in Appalachia at the time—and found a bear about to finish her off. He carried her back to Carine, more than a hundred miles, afraid he wouldn’t be able to do it himself. I’m only beginning to guess how difficult that journey was for him.” She threw a pointed glance in my direction and raised our hands, still folded together, to brush her cheek against my hand.

“But he made it.”

“Yes. He saw something in her face that made him strong enough. And they’ve been together ever since. Sometimes they live separately from us, as a married couple. But the younger we pretend to be, the longer we can stay in any given place. Forks is perfect in many ways, so we all enrolled in high school.” She laughed. “I suppose we’ll have to go to the wedding in a few years. Again.”

“Archie and Jessamine?”

“Archie and Jessamine are two very rare creatures. They both developed a conscience, as we refer to it, with no outside guidance. Jessamine belonged to another… family, a very different kind of family. She became depressed, and she wandered on her own. Archie found her. Like me, he has certain gifts.”

“Really?” I interrupted, fascinated. “But you said you were the only one who could hear people’s thoughts.”

“That’s true. He knows other things. He sees things—things that might happen, things that are coming. But it’s very subjective. The future isn’t set in stone. Things change.”

Her jaw set when she said that, and her eyes darted to my face and away so quickly that I wasn’t sure if I’d only imagined it.


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