I saw several things simultaneously. Nothing was moving in slow motion,
the way it does in the movies. Instead, the adrenaline rush seemed to
make my brain work much faster, and I was able to absorb in clear detail
several things at once.
Edward Cullen was standing four cars down from me, staring at me in
horror. His face stood out from a sea of faces, all frozen in the same
mask of shock. But of more immediate importance was the dark blue van
that was skidding, tires locked and squealing against the brakes,
spinning wildly across the ice of the parking lot. It was going to hit
the back corner of my truck, and I was standing between them. I didn't
even have time to close my eyes.
Just before I heard the shattering crunch of the van folding around the
truck bed, something hit me, hard, but not from the direction I was
expecting. My head cracked against the icy blacktop, and I felt something
solid and cold pinning me to the ground. I was lying on the pavement
behind the tan car I'd parked next to. But I didn't have a chance to
notice anything else, because the van was still coming. It had curled
gratingly around the end of the truck and, still spinning and sliding,
was about to collide with me again.
A low oath made me aware that someone was with me, and the voice was
impossible not to recognize. Two long, white hands shot out protectively
in front of me, and the van shuddered to a stop a foot from my face, the
large hands fitting providentially into a deep dent in the side of the
Then his hands moved so fast they blurred. One was suddenly gripping
under the body of the van, and something was dragging me, swinging my
legs around like a rag doll's, till they hit the tire of the tan car. A
groaning metallic thud hurt my ears, and the van settled, glass popping,
onto the asphalt — exactly where, a second ago, my legs had been.
It was absolutely silent for one long second before the screaming began.
In the abrupt bedlam, I could hear more than one person shouting my name.
But more clearly than all the yelling, I could hear Edward Cullen's low,
frantic voice in my ear.
"Bella? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." My voice sounded strange. I tried to sit up, and realized he
was holding me against the side of his body in an iron grasp.
"Be careful," he warned as I struggled. "I think you hit your head pretty
I became aware of a throbbing ache centered above my left ear.
"Ow," I said, surprised.
"That's what I thought." His voice, amazingly, sounded like he was
"How in the…" I trailed off, trying to clear my head, get my bearings.
"How did you get over here so fast?"
"I was standing right next to you, Bella," he said, his tone serious
I turned to sit up, and this time he let me, releasing his hold around my
waist and sliding as far from me as he could in the limited space. I
looked at his concerned, innocent expression and was disoriented again by
the force of his gold-colored eyes. What was I asking him?
And then they found us, a crowd of people with tears streaming down their
faces, shouting at each other, shouting at us.
"Don't move," someone instructed.
"Get Tyler out of the van!" someone else shouted.
There was a flurry of activity around us. I tried to get up, but Edward's
cold hand pushed my shoulder down.
"Just stay put for now."
"But it's cold," I complained. It surprised me when he chuckled under his
breath. There was an edge to the sound.
"You were over there," I suddenly remembered, and his chuckle stopped
short. "You were by your car."
His expression turned hard. "No, I wasn't."
"I saw you." All around us was chaos. I could hear the gruffer voices of
adults arriving on the scene. But I obstinately held on to our argument;
I was right, and he was going to admit it.
"Bella, I was standing with you, and I pulled you out of the way." He
unleashed the full, devastating power of his eyes on me, as if trying to
communicate something crucial.
"No." I set my jaw.
The gold in his eyes blazed. "Please, Bella."
"Why?" I demanded.
"Trust me," he pleaded, his soft voice overwhelming.
I could hear the sirens now. "Will you promise to explain everything to
"Fine," he snapped, abruptly exasperated.
"Fine," I repeated angrily.
It took six EMTs and two teachers — Mr. Varner and Coach Clapp — to shift
the van far enough away from us to bring the stretchers in. Edward
vehemently refused his, and I tried to do the same, but the traitor told
them I'd hit my head and probably had a concussion. I almost died of
humiliation when they put on the neck brace. It looked like the entire
school was there, watching soberly as they loaded me in the back of the
ambulance. Edward got to ride in the front. It was maddening.
To make matters worse, Chief Swan arrived before they could get me safely
"Bella!" he yelled in panic when he recognized me on the stretcher.
"I'm completely fine, Char — Dad," I sighed. "There's nothing wrong with
He turned to the closest EMT for a second opinion. I tuned him out to
consider the jumble of inexplicable images churning chaotically in my
head. When they'd lifted me away from the car, I had seen the deep dent
in the tan car's bumper — a very distinct dent that fit the contours of
Edward's shoulders… as if he had braced himself against the car with
enough force to damage the metal frame…
And then there was his family, looking on from the distance, with
expressions that ranged from disapproval to fury but held no hint of
concern for their brother's safety.
I tried to think of a logical solution that could explain what I had just
seen — a solution that excluded the assumption that I was insane.
Naturally, the ambulance got a police escort to the county hospital. I
felt ridiculous the whole time they were unloading me. What made it worse
was that Edward simply glided through the hospital doors under his own
power. I ground my teeth together.
They put me in the emergency room, a long room with a line of beds
separated by pastel-patterned curtains. A nurse put a pressure cuff on my
arm and a thermometer under my tongue. Since no one bothered pulling the
curtain around to give me some privacy, I decided I wasn't obligated to
wear the stupid-looking neck brace anymore. When the nurse walked away, I
quickly unfastened the Velcro and threw it under the bed.
There was another flurry of hospital personnel, another stretcher brought
to the bed next to me. I recognized Tyler Crowley from my Government
class beneath the bloodstained bandages wrapped tightly around his head.
Tyler looked a hundred times worse than I felt. But he was staring
anxiously at me.
"Bella, I'm so sorry!"
"I'm fine, Tyler — you look awful, are you all right?" As we spoke,
nurses began unwinding his soiled bandages, exposing a myriad of shallow
slices all over his forehead and left cheek.
He ignored me. "I thought I was going to kill you! I was going too fast,
and I hit the ice wrong…" He winced as one nurse started dabbing at his
"Don't worry about it; you missed me."
"How did you get out of the way so fast? You were there, and then you
"Umm… Edward pulled me out of the way."
He looked confused. "Who?"
"Edward Cullen — he was standing next to me." I'd always been a terrible
liar; I didn't sound convincing at all.
"Cullen? I didn't see him… wow, it was all so fast, I guess. Is he okay?"
"I think so. He's here somewhere, but they didn't make him use a
I knew I wasn't crazy. What had happened? There was no way to explain
away what I'd seen.
They wheeled me away then, to X-ray my head. I told them there was
nothing wrong, and I was right. Not even a concussion. I asked if I could
leave, but the nurse said I had to talk to a doctor first. So I was
trapped in the ER, waiting, harassed by Tyler's constant apologies and
promises to make it up to me. No matter how many times I tried to
convince him I was fine, he continued to torment himself. Finally, I
closed my eyes and ignored him. He kept up a remorseful mumbling.
"Is she sleeping?" a musical voice asked. My eyes flew open.
Edward was standing at the foot of my bed, smirking. I glared at him. It
wasn't easy — it would have been more natural to ogle.
"Hey, Edward, I'm really sorry —" Tyler began.
Edward lifted a hand to stop him.
"No blood, no foul," he said, flashing his brilliant teeth. He moved to
sit on the edge of Tyler's bed, facing me. He smirked again.
"So, what's the verdict?" he asked me.
"There's nothing wrong with me at all, but they won't let me go," I
complained. "How come you aren't strapped to a gurney like the rest of
"It's all about who you know," he answered. "But don't worry, I came to
Then a doctor walked around the corner, and my mouth fell open. He was
young, he was blond… and he was handsomer than any movie star I'd ever
seen. He was pale, though, and tired-looking, with circles under his
eyes. From Charlie's description, this had to be Edward's father.
"So, Miss Swan," Dr. Cullen said in a remarkably appealing voice, "how
are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," I said, for the last time, I hoped.
He walked to the lightboard on the wall over my head, and turned it on.
"Your X-rays look good," he said. "Does your head hurt? Edward said you
hit it pretty hard."
"It's fine," I repeated with a sigh, throwing a quick scowl toward Edward.
The doctor's cool fingers probed lightly along my skull. He noticed when
"Tender?" he asked.
"Not really." I'd had worse.
I heard a chuckle, and looked over to see Edward's patronizing smile. My
"Well, your father is in the waiting room — you can go home with him now.
But come back if you feel dizzy or have trouble with your eyesight at
"Can't I go back to school?" I asked, imagining Charlie trying to be
"Maybe you should take it easy today."
I glanced at Edward. "Does he get to go to school?"
"Someone has to spread the good news that we survived," Edward said
"Actually," Dr. Cullen corrected, "most of the school seems to be in the
"Oh no," I moaned, covering my face with my hands.
Dr. Cullen raised his eyebrows. "Do you want to stay?"
"No, no!" I insisted, throwing my legs over the side of the bed and
hopping down quickly. Too quickly — I staggered, and Dr. Cullen caught
me. He looked concerned.
"I'm fine," I assured him again. No need to tell him my balance problems
had nothing to do with hitting my head.
"Take some Tylenol for the pain," he suggested as he steadied me.
"It doesn't hurt that bad," I insisted.
"It sounds like you were extremely lucky," Dr. Cullen said, smiling as he
signed my chart with a flourish.
"Lucky Edward happened to be standing next to me," I amended with a hard
glance at the subject of my statement.
"Oh, well, yes," Dr. Cullen agreed, suddenly occupied with the papers in
front of him. Then he looked away, at Tyler, and walked to the next bed.
My intuition flickered; the doctor was in on it.
"I'm afraid that you'll have to stay with us just a little bit longer,"
he said to Tyler, and began checking his cuts.
As soon as the doctor's back was turned, I moved to Edward's side.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" I hissed under my breath. He took a
step back from me, his jaw suddenly clenched.
"Your father is waiting for you," he said through his teeth.
I glanced at Dr. Cullen and Tyler.
"I'd like to speak with you alone, if you don't mind," I pressed.
He glared, and then turned his back and strode down the long room. I
nearly had to run to keep up. As soon as we turned the corner into a
short hallway, he spun around to face me.
"What do you want?" he asked, sounding annoyed. His eyes were cold.
His unfriendliness intimidated me. My words came out with less severity
than I'd intended. "You owe me an explanation," I reminded him.
"I saved your life — I don't owe you anything."
I flinched back from the resentment in his voice. "You promised."
"Bella, you hit your head, you don't know what you're talking about." His
tone was cutting.
My temper flared now, and I glared defiantly at him. "There's nothing
wrong with my head."
He glared back. "What do you want from me, Bella?"
"I want to know the truth," I said. "I want to know why I'm lying for
"What do you think happened?" he snapped.
It came out in a rush.
"All I know is that you weren't anywhere near me — Tyler didn't see you,
either, so don't tell me I hit my head too hard. That van was going to
crush us both — and it didn't, and your hands left dents in the side of
it — and you left a dent in the other car, and you're not hurt at all —
and the van should have smashed my legs, but you were holding it up…" I
could hear how crazy it sounded, and I couldn't continue. I was so mad I
could feel the tears coming; I tried to force them back by grinding my
He was staring at me incredulously. But his face was tense, defensive.
"You think I lifted a van off you?" His tone questioned my sanity, but it
only made me more suspicious. It was like a perfectly delivered line by a
I merely nodded once, jaw tight.
"Nobody will believe that, you know." His voice held an edge of derision
"I'm not going to tell anybody." I said each word slowly, carefully
controlling my anger.
Surprise flitted across his face. "Then why does it matter?"
"It matters to me," I insisted. "I don't like to lie — so there'd better
be a good reason why I'm doing it."
"Can't you just thank me and get over it?"
"Thank you." I waited, fuming and expectant.
"You're not going to let it go, are you?"
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