Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 88)

She turned her face into my chest and whispered, “Not yet.”

“What—” I started, but then her body was suddenly motionless. I froze, but she was gone, my arms wrapped around the empty air.

“Lie down,” she hissed, but I couldn’t tell where she was in the darkness.

I threw myself back on the bed, shaking the quilt out and then rolling on my side, the way I usually slept. I heard the door crack open. Charlie was checking up on me. I breathed evenly, exaggerating the movement.

A long minute passed. I listened for the door to close. Suddenly Edythe was next to me. She lifted my arm and placed it over her shoulders as she burrowed herself closer to me.

“You’re a terrible actor—I’d say that career path is out for you.”

“There goes my ten-year plan,” I muttered. My heart was being obnoxious. She could probably feel it as well as hear it, careening around inside my ribs like it might bust one of them.

She hummed a melody I didn’t recognize. It reminded me of a lullaby. Then she paused. “Should I sing you to sleep?”

“Right,” I laughed. “Like I could sleep with you here.”

“You do it all the time,” she reminded me.

“Not with you here,” I disagreed, tightening my arm around her.

“You have a point. So if you don’t want to sleep, what do you want to do, then?”

“Honestly? A lot of things. None of them careful.”

She didn’t say anything; it didn’t sound like she was breathing. I went on quickly.

“But since I promised to be careful, what I’d like is… to know more about you.”

“Ask me anything.” I could hear that she was smiling now.

I sifted through my questions for the most important. “Why do you do it?” I asked. “I still don’t understand why you work so hard to resist what you… are. Don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do—I’ve never been happier to be alive. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”

She answered slowly. “That’s a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others—the vast majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot—they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above—to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”

I lay still, feeling kind of awed. She was a better person than I would ever be.

“Did you fall asleep?” she murmured almost silently after a few minutes.

“No.”

“Is that all you were curious about?”

I rolled my eyes. “Not quite.”

“What else do you want to know?”

“Why can you read minds—why only you? And Archie, seeing the future and everything… why does that happen?”

I felt her shrug under my arm. “We don’t really know. Carine has a theory… she believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified—like our minds, and our senses. She thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Archie had some precognition, wherever he was.”

“What did she bring into the next life, and the others?”

“Carine brought her compassion. Earnest brought his ability to love passionately. Eleanor brought her strength, Royal his… tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness,” she chuckled. “Jessamine is very interesting. She was quite charismatic in her first life, able to influence those around her to see things her way. Now she is able to manipulate the emotions of those near her—calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle gift.”

I considered the impossibilities she described, trying to take it in. She waited patiently while I thought.

“So where did it all start? I mean, Carine changed you, and then someone must have changed her, and so on.…”

“Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn’t we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don’t believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?”

“Let me get this straight—I’m the baby seal, right?”

“Correct.” She laughed, and her fingers brushed across my lips. “Aren’t you tired? It’s been a rather long day.”

“I just have a few million more questions.”

“We have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.…”

A feeling of euphoria, of pure bliss, filled up my chest until I thought I might explode. I couldn’t imagine there was a drug addict in the world who wouldn’t trade his favorite fix for this feeling.

It was a minute before I could talk again. “Are you sure you won’t vanish in the morning? You are mythical, after all.”

“I won’t leave you,” she promised solemnly, and that same feeling, even stronger than before, washed through me.

When I could speak, I said, “One more, then, tonight.…” And then the blood rushed up my neck. The darkness was no help. I was sure she could feel the heat.

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