Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 97)
This wall was different from the others. Instead of bookshelves, it was covered by dozens and dozens of framed paintings. They were all different sizes and styles, some dull, some blazing with color. I scanned quickly, looking for some kind of logic, something they all had in common, but I couldn’t find any link.
Edythe pulled me to the far left side, then put both her hands on my arms and positioned me directly in front of one of the paintings. My heart reacted the way it always did when she touched me—even in the most casual way. It was more embarrassing knowing Carine would hear it, too.
The painting she wanted me to look at was a small square canvas in a plain wooden frame; it did not stand out among the bigger and brighter pieces. Painted in different shades of brown, it showed a miniature city full of steeply slanted roofs. A river filled the foreground, crossed by a bridge covered with structures that looked like tiny cathedrals.
“London in the sixteen-fifties,” Edythe said.
“The London of my youth,” Carine added from a few feet behind us. I jumped a little—I hadn’t heard her approach. Edythe took my hand and squeezed it lightly.
“Will you tell the story?” Edythe asked. I turned to see Carine’s reaction.
She met my glance and smiled. “I would, but I’m actually running a bit late. The hospital called this morning—Dr. Snow is taking a sick day. But Beau won’t miss anything.” She smiled at Edythe now. “You know the stories as well as I do.”
It was a strange combination to absorb—the everyday life of a small-town doctor mixed up with a discussion of her early days in seventeenth-century London.
It was also kind of unsettling to realize that she probably was only speaking out loud for my benefit.
With another warm smile, Carine left the room.
I stared at the picture of her hometown for a long minute.
“What came next?” I asked again. “When she knew what had happened to her?”
She nudged me over a half-step, her eyes on a bigger landscape. It was done in dull fall colors and showed an empty meadow in a gloomy forest, a black mountain peak in the distance.
“When she knew what she had become,” Edythe said quietly, “she despaired… and then rebelled. She tried to destroy herself. But that’s not easily done.”
“How?” I didn’t mean to say that out loud, but I was so shocked, it slipped out.
Edythe shrugged. “She jumped from great heights. She tried to drown herself in the ocean. But she was young to the new life, and very strong. It is amazing that she was able to resist… feeding… while she was still so new. The instinct is more powerful then, it takes over everything. But she was so repelled by herself that she had the strength to try to kill herself with starvation.”
“Is that possible?” I asked quietly.
“No, there are very few ways we can be killed.”
I opened my mouth to ask, but she spoke before I could.
“So she grew very hungry, and eventually weak. She strayed as far as she could from the human populace, recognizing that her willpower was weakening, too. For months she wandered by night, seeking the loneliest places, loathing herself.
“One night, a herd of deer passed beneath her hiding place. She was so wild with thirst that she attacked without a thought. Her strength returned and she realized there was an alternative to being the vile monster she feared. Had she not eaten venison in her former life? Over the next months, her new philosophy was born. She could exist without being a demon. She found herself again.
“She began to make better use of her time. She’d always been intelligent, eager to learn. Now she had unlimited time before her. She studied by night, planned by day. She swam to France and—”
“She swam to France?”
“People swim the Channel all the time, Beau,” she reminded me patiently.
“That’s true, I guess. It just sounded funny in that context. Go on.”
“Swimming is easy for us—”
“Everything is easy for you,” I muttered.
She waited with her eyebrows raised.
“Sorry. I won’t interrupt again, I promise.”
She smiled darkly and finished her sentence. “Because, technically, we don’t need to breathe.”
“No, no, you promised,” she laughed, placing her cold finger against my lips. “Do you want to hear the story or not?”
“You can’t spring something like that on me, and then expect me not to say anything,” I mumbled against her finger.
She lifted her hand, moving it to rest against my chest. The speed of my heart reacted to that, but I ignored it.
“You don’t have to breathe?” I demanded.
“No, it’s not necessary. Just a habit.” She shrugged.
“How long can you go… without breathing?”
“Indefinitely, I suppose; I don’t know. It gets a bit uncomfortable—being without a sense of smell.”
“A bit uncomfortable,” I echoed.
I wasn’t paying attention to my own expression, but something in it made her suddenly serious. Her hand fell to her side and she stood very still, watching my face. The silence stretched out. Her features turned to stone.
“What is it?” I whispered, carefully touching her frozen face.
Her face came back to life, and she smiled a tiny, wan smile. “I know that at some point, something I tell you or something you see is going to be too much. And then you’ll run away from me, screaming as you go.” Her smile faded. “I won’t stop you when that happens. I want it to happen, because I want you to be safe. And yet, I want to be with you. The two desires are impossible to reconcile.…” She trailed off, staring at my face.