I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I felt absolutely wide awake, though the clock on the dresser said it was after one. I knew i would never be able to sleep as hot and sticky as I felt. Not to mention the fact that if I shut off the light and closed my eyes, I was sure to see those prowling black figures in my head.
I got up and wandered aimlessly through the dark house, flipping on lights. It felt so big and empty without Edward there. Different.
I ended up in the kitchen and decided that maybe comfort food was what I needed.
I poked around in the fridge until I found all the ingredients for fried chicken. The popping and sizzling of the chicken in the pan was a nice, homey sound; I felt less nervous while it filled the silence.
It smelled so good that I started eating it right out of the pan, burning my tongue in the process. By the fifth or sixth bite, though, it had cooled enough for me to taste it. My chewing slowed. Was there something off about the flavor? I checked the meat, and it was white all the way through, but I wondered if it was completely done. I took another experimental bite; I chewed twice. Ugh - definitely bad. I jumped up to spit it into the sink. Suddenly, the chicken-and-oil smell was revolting. I took the whole plate and shook it into the garbage, then opened the windows to chase away the scent. A coolish breeze had picked up outside. It felt good on my skin.
I was abruptly exhausted, but i didn't want to go back to the hot room. So I opened more windows in the TV room and lay on the couch right beneath them. I turned on the same movie we'd watched the other day and quickly fell asleep to the bright opening song.
When I opened my eyes again, the sun was halfway up the sky, but it was not the light that woke me. Cool arms were around me, pulling me against him. At the same time, a sudden pain twisted in my stomach, almost like the aftershock of catching a punch in the gut.
Tm sorry," Edward was murmuring as he wiped a wintry hand across my clammy forehead. "So much for thoroughness. I didn't think about how hot you would be with me gone. I'll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again."
I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. "Excuse me!" I gasped, struggling to get free of his arms.
He dropped his hold automatically. "Bella?"
I streaked for the bathroom with my hand clamped over my mouth. I felt so horrible that I didn't even care - at first - that he was with me while I crouched over the toilet and was violently sick.
"Bella? What's wrong?"
I couldn't answer yet. He held me anxiously, keeping my hair out of my face, waiting till I could breathe again.
"Damn rancid chicken," I moaned.
"Are you all right?" His voice was strained.
"Fine," I panted. "It's just food poisoning. You don't need to see this. Go away."
"Go away," I moaned again, struggling to get up so I could rinse my mouth out. He helped me gently, ignoring the weak shoves I aimed at him.
After my mouth was clean, he carried me to the bed and sat me down carefully, supporting me with his arms.
"Yeah," I croaked. "I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out. But I ate a few bites first."
He put a cold hand on my forehead. It felt nice. "How do you feel now?"
I thought about that for a moment. The nausea had passed as suddenly as it had come, and I felt like I did any other morning. "Pretty normal. A little hungry, actually."
He made me wait an hour and keep down a big glass of water before he fried me some eggs. I felt perfectly normal, just a little tired from being up in the middle of the night. He put onCNN - we'd been so out of touch, world war three could have broken out and we wouldn't have known - and I lounged drowsily across his lap.
I got bored with the news and twisted around to kiss him. Just like this morning, a sharp pain hit my stomach when I moved. I lurched away from him, my hand tight over my mouth. I knew I'd never make it to the bathroom this time, so I ran to the kitchen sink.
He held my hair again.
"Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor," he suggested anxiously when I was rinsing my mouth afterward.
I shook my head and edged toward the hallway. Doctors meant needles. "I'll be fine right after I brush my teeth."
When my mouth tasted better, I searched through my suitcase for the little first-aid kit Alice had packed for me, full of human things like bandages and painkillers and - my object now - Pepto-Bismol. Maybe I could settle my stomach and calm Edward down.
But before I found the Pepto, I happened across something else that Alice had packed for me. I picked up the small blue box and stared at it in my hand for a long moment, forgetting everything else.
Then I started counting in my head. Once. Twice. Again.
Theknock startled me; the little box fell back into the suitcase.
"Are you well?" Edward asked through the door. "Did you get sick again?"
"Yes and no," I said, but my voice sounded strangled.
"Bella? Can I please come in?" Worriedly now.
He came in and appraised my position, sitting cross-legged on the floor by the suitcase, and my expression, blank and staring. He sat next to me, his hand going to my forehead at once.
"How many days has it been since the wedding?" I whispered.
"Seventeen," he answered automatically. "Bella, what is it?"
I was counting again. I held up a finger, cautioning him to wait, and mouthed the numbers to myself. I'd been wrong about the days before. We'd been here longer than I'd thought. I started over again.