*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 22 - HIDE-AND-SEEK
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 walkk 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 বৃক্ষ where I'd played as a child. অথবা kneeling দ্বারা the little plot of dirt around the mailbox, the cemetery of all the ফুলেরডালি she'd tried to grow. The memories were better than any reality I would see today. But I raed 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 অগ্রবর্তী again. But at last I made it to the corner. Just another রাস্তা 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. আরো 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 written on hot পরাকাষ্ঠা paper; it ব্যক্ত 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 দ্বারা it. I couldn't make my feet সরানো 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, আপনি scared me! don't আপনি 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 বছর before she died. We went to the সৈকত one day, and I'd leaned too far over the edge of the pier. She'd seen my feet failing, 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 দ্বারা the back exit, so still I hadn't noticed him at first. In his hands 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 পরবর্তি 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 be terrified দ্বারা 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. আপনি 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, আপনি humans can be quite interesting. I guess I can see the draw of observing you. It's amazing - some of আপনি seem to have no sense of your own self-interest at all."
He was standing a few feet away from me, arms folded, looking at me curiously. There was no menace in his face অথবা stance. He was so very average-looking, nothing remarkable about his face অথবা body at all. Just teh whie skin, the circled eyes I'd grown so used to. He wore a pale blue, long-sleeved শার্ট and faded blue jeans.
"I suppose you're going to tell me that your boyfriend will avenge you?" he asked, hopfully it seemed to me.
"No, I don't think so. At least, I asked him not to."
"And what was his reply to that?"
"I don't know." It was strangely easy to কনভার্স with this genteel hunter. "I left him a letter."
"How romantic a last letter. And do আপনি think he will honor it?" His voice was jts a little harder now, a hint of sarcasm marring his polite tone.
"I hope so."
"Hmmm. Well, our hopes differ then. আপনি see, this was all just a little too easy, too quick. To be honest, I'm disappointed. I expected a much greater challenge. And, after all, I only needed a little luck."
I waited in silence.
"When Victoria couldn't get to your father, I had her find out আরো about you. There was no sense in running all over the planet chasing আপনি down when I could comfortably wait for আপনি in a place of my choosing. So, after I talked to Victoria, I decided to come to Phoenix to pay your mother a visit. I'd heard আপনি say আপনি were going home. At first, I never dreamed আপনি meant it. But then I wondered. Humans can be very predictable; they like to be somewhere familiar, somewhere safe. And wouldn't it be the perfect ploy, to go to the last place আপনি should be when you'er hiding - the place that আপনি ব্যক্ত you'd be.
"But of course I wasn't sure, it was just a hunch. I usually get a feeling about the prey that I'm hunting, a sixth sense, if আপনি will. I listened to your message when I got to your mother's house, but of course I couldn't be sure where you'd called from. It was very useful to have your number, but আপনি could have been in Antarctica of all I knew, and the game wouldn't work unless আপনি were close by.
"Then your boyfriend got on a plane to Phoenix. Victoria was monitoring them for me, naturally; in a game with this many players, I couldn't be working alone. Ans so they told me what I'd hoped, that আপনি were here after all. I was prepared; I'd already been through your charming প্রথমপাতা movies. And then it was simply a matter of bluff.
"Very easy, আপনি know, not really up to my standards. So, আপনি see, I'm hoping you're wrong about your boyfriend. Edward, isn't it?"
I didn't answer. The bravado was wearing off. I sensed that he was coming to the end of his gloat. It wasn't meant for me anyway. There was no glory in beating me, a weak human.