It was a very long day.
We stayed in the room. Alice called down to the front desk and asked them to ignore our maid service for now. The windows stayed shut, the TV on, though no one watched it. At regular intervals, food was delivered for me. The silver phone resting on Alice's bag seemed to grow bigger as the hours passed.
My babysitters handled the suspense better than I did. As I fidgeted and paced, they simply grew more still, two statues whose eyes followed me imperceptibly as I moved. I occupied myself with memorizing the room; the striped pattern of the couches, tan, peach, cream, dull gold, and tan again. Sometimes I stared at the abstract prints, randomly finding pictures in the shapes, like I'd found pictures in the clouds as a child. I traced a blue hand, a woman combing her hair, a cat stretching. But when the pale red circle became a staring eye, I looked away.
As the afternoon wore on, I went back to bed, simply for something to do. I hoped that by myself in the dark, I could give in to the terrible fears that hovered on the edge of my consciousness, unable to break through under Jasper's careful supervision.
But Alice followed me casually, as if by some coincidence she had grown tired of the front room at the same time. I was beginning to wonder exactly what sort of instructions Edward had given her. I lay across the
bed, and she sat, legs folded, next to me. I ignored her at first, suddenly tired enough to sleep. But after a few minutes, the panic that had held off in Jasper's presence began to make itself known. I gave up on the idea of sleep quickly then, curling up into a small ball, wrapping my arms around my legs.
"Alice?" I asked.
I kept my voice very calm. "What do you think they're doing?"
"Carlisle wanted to lead the tracker as far north as possible, wait for him to get close, and then turn and ambush him. Esme and Rosalie were supposed to head west as long as they could keep the female behind them. If she turned around, they were to head back to Forks and keep an eye on your dad. So I imagine things are going well if they can't call. It means the tracker is close enough that they don't want him to overhear."
"I think she must be back in Forks. She won't call if there's any chance the female will overhear. I expect they're all just being very careful."
"Do you think they're safe, really?"
"Bella, how many times do we have to tell you that there's no danger to us?"
"Would you tell me the truth, though?"
"Yes. I will always tell you the truth." Her voice was earnest.
I deliberated for a moment, and decided she meant it.
"Tell me then… how do you become a vampire?"
My question caught her off guard. She was quiet. I rolled over to look at her, and her expression seemed ambivalent.
"Edward doesn't want me to tell you that," she said firmly, but I sensed she didn't agree.
"That's not fair. I think I have a right to know."
I looked at her, waiting.
She sighed. "He'll be extremely angry."
"It's none of his business. This is between you and me. Alice, as a friend, I'm begging you." And we were friends now, somehow — as she must have known we would be all along.
She looked at me with her splendid, wise eyes… choosing.
"I'll tell you the mechanics of it," she said finally, "but I don't remember it myself, and I've never done it or seen it done, so keep in mind that I can only tell you the theory."
"As predators, we have a glut of weapons in our physical arsenal — much, much more than really necessary. The strength, the speed, the acute senses, not to mention those of us like Edward, Jasper, and I, who have extra senses as well. And then, like a carnivorous flower, we are physically attractive to our prey."
I was very still, remembering how pointedly Edward had demonstrated the same concept for me in the meadow.
She smiled a wide, ominous smile. "We have another fairly superfluous weapon. We're also venomous," she said, her teeth glistening. "The venom doesn't kill — it's merely incapacitating. It works slowly, spreading through the bloodstream, so that, once bitten, our prey is in too much physical pain to escape us. Mostly superfluous, as I said. If we're that close, the prey doesn't escape. Of course, there are always exceptions. Carlisle, for example."
"So… if the venom is left to spread…" I murmured.
"It takes a few days for the transformation to be complete, depending on how much venom is in the bloodstream, how close the venom enters to the heart. As long as the heart keeps beating, the poison spreads, healing, changing the body as it moves through it. Eventually the heart stops, and the conversion is finished. But all that time, every minute of it, a victim would be wishing for death."
"It's not pleasant, you see."
"Edward said that it was very hard to do… I don't quite understand," I said.
"We're also like sharks in a way. Once we taste the blood, or even smell it for that matter, it becomes very hard to keep from feeding. Sometimes impossible. So you see, to actually bite someone, to taste the blood, it would begin the frenzy. It's difficult on both sides — the blood-lust on the one hand, the awful pain on the other."
"Why do you think you don't remember?"
"I don't know. For everyone else, the pain of transformation is the sharpest memory they have of their human life. I remember nothing of being human." Her voice was wistful.
We lay silently, wrapped in our individual meditations.
The seconds ticked by, and I had almost forgotten her presence, I was so enveloped in my thoughts.
Then, without any warning, Alice leaped from the bed, landing lightly on her feet. My head jerked up as I stared at her, startled.
"Something's changed." Her voice was urgent, and she wasn't talking to me anymore.
She reached the door at the same time Jasper did. He had obviously heard our conversation and her sudden exclamation. He put his hands on her shoulders and guided her back to the bed, sitting her on the edge.
"What do you see?" he asked intently, staring into her eyes. Her eyes were focused on something very far away. I sat close to her, leaning in to catch her low, quick voice.
"I see a room. It's long, and there are mirrors everywhere. The floor is wooden. He's in the room, and he's waiting. There's gold… a gold stripe across the mirrors."
"Where is the room?"
"I don't know. Something is missing — another decision hasn't been made yet."
"How much time?"
"It's soon. He'll be in the mirror room today, or maybe tomorrow. It all depends. He's waiting for something. And he's in the dark now."
Jasper's voice was calm, methodical, as he questioned her in a practiced way. "What is he doing?"
"He's watching TV… no, he's running a VCR, in the dark, in another place."
"Can you see where he is?"
"No, it's too dark."
"And the mirror room, what else is there?"
"Just the mirrors, and the gold. It's a band, around the room. And there's a black table with a big stereo, and a TV. He's touching the VCR there, but he doesn't watch the way he does in the dark room. This is the room where he waits." Her eyes drifted, then focused on Jasper's face.
"There's nothing else?"
She shook her head. They looked at each other, motionless.
"What does it mean?" I asked.
Neither of them answered for a moment, then Jasper looked at me.
"It means the tracker's plans have changed. He's made a decision that will lead him to the mirror room, and the dark room."
"But we don't know where those rooms are?"
"But we do know that he won't be in the mountains north of Washington, being hunted. He'll elude them." Alice's voice was bleak.
"Should we call?" I asked. They traded a serious look, undecided.