Twilight, Chapter 4: Invitations
IN MY DREAM IT WAS VERY DARK, AND WHAT DIM LIGHT there was seemed to be radiating from Edward's skin. I couldn't see his face, just his back as he walked away from me, leaving me in the blackness. No matter how fast I ran, I couldn't catch up to him; no matter how loud I called, he never turned. Troubled, I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep again for what seemed like a very long time. After that, he was in my dreams nearly every night, but always on the periphery, never within reach.
From left: Eric, Mike, Tyler, and Jacob
Having said that, I have a hard time envisioning this scene: everything is shrouded in darkness, Edward's back is turned to Bella, and she can't see his face. And yet... there's light radiating from his skin. Does she mean his hands or is Edward in a state of undress? It's hard for me to envision a clothed Edward in a dark environment radiating very much light when viewed from the back. Maybe some of his neck is showing?
To my dismay, I found myself the center of attention for the rest of that week. Tyler Crowley was impossible, following me around, obsessed with making amends to me somehow. I tried to convince him what I wanted more than anything else was for him to forget all about it -- especially since nothing had actually happened to me -- but he remained insistent. He followed me between classes and sat at our now-crowded lunch table. Mike and Eric were even less friendly toward him than they were to each other, which made me worry that I'd gained another unwelcome fan.
We've remarked before that the constant attention that Bella receives from Mike and Eric is used as a short-hand way to reaffirm to the reader that Bella is beautiful and desirable and worthwhile, but it's interesting to me here how the third suitor in our Suitor Collector Set is described. Tyler isn't introduced to us as another suitor for Bella's affections based on her observations of his behavior, but rather based on her observations of other people's reactions to his behavior.
Is this a roundabout way of making Bella seem humble and possibly less authoritarian a narrator? If Bella simply asserted that Tyler was pursuing her romantically, we would be free to decide that perhaps she is misinterpreting Tyler's earnest desire to apologize to her -- that she is spinning romantic fantasies out of a traumatic reaction by a young man faced with the prospect of accidentally killing someone. Or we could simply assume that Bella is perhaps a little hung-up on herself to continue to insist that any and all male attention paid to her is an attempt to get into her good romantic graces. So instead, we learn that Bella fears Tyler is becoming a little too interested in her because her existing suitors are unfriendly to him.
On the one hand, there is some reasonableness to this chain of logic. If Mike and Eric can be assumed to be suitors, they can also be assumed to be on the lookout for competition. If they respond aggressively to Tyler, it's possible that they recognize Tyler's true motives more clearly than Bella would. On the other hand, however, Mike has been relatively hostile to Edward, simply because Edward is Bella's lab partner and excruciatingly attractive, and Bella hasn't taken Mike's hostility as proof of Edward's interest, but rather simply as more proof of Mike's. So it would seem that this logical chain (If Mike | Eric = rude to X, then X = suitor) is not something that Bella follows as a hard and fast rule.
Tyler's introduction as Suitor #3 also brings up an interesting pattern to the suitor accrual going on: they seem to be appearing at crucial life events in order to reaffirm at key moments that Bella is awesomely desirabe. Eric was summoned into romantic existence upon Bella's arrival at the school as The New Girl; Mike turned on the charm immediately after Edward was rude to Bella in Biology. Now Tyler has turned up in the wake of Edward's flight from Bella in the hospital. If we continue at this rate, then Bella and Edward have to hook up soon or our suitors will reach critical mass.
No one seemed concerned about Edward, though I explained over and over that he was the hero -- how he had pulled me out of the way and had nearly been crushed, too. I tried to be convincing. Jessica, Mike, Eric, and everyone else always commented that they hadn't even seen him there till the van was pulled away.
I wondered to myself why no one else had seen him standing so far away, before he was suddenly, impossibly saving my life. With chagrin, I realized the probable cause -- no one else was as aware of Edward as I always was. No one else watched him the way I did. How pitiful.
Edward was never surrounded by crowds of curious bystanders eager for his firsthand account. People avoided him as usual. The Cullens and the Hales sat at the same table as always, not eating, talking only among themselves. None of them, especially Edward, glanced my way anymore.
Once again, I find the extraordinary incuriousness of the Forks natives to be so seemingly forced as to be instantly suspicious. It's impossible for me to read this and not imagine "always been a bad liar" Bella insisting conspicuously that EDWARD IS A HERO while her friends casually remark that huh, didn't even see him so HOW ABOUT THAT WEATHER THEN? and forcibly changing the subject.
Especially odd is Bella's "revelation" that only she is focused single-mindedly on the position of Edward Cullen, as well as her insistence that Edward is universally avoided by the other students. Why is this? The Cullens are, of course, incredibly insular and unwilling to socialize with their peers, but Bella is walking proof that some people are going to be drawn in enough by their superficial beauty to overlook their absolutely terrible personalities.
It seems impossible that dazzling Edward doesn't have a few admirers from afar, nor does it seem likely that in their single year undercover in Forks he would be able to so thoroughly alienate all the other students such that no one would want his heroic account of the accident. If the Forksian students can studiously overlook Bella's obvious distaste and contempt of them because of her irresistible beauty, then it seems odd that the Cullens would not have similar numbers of hanger-ons.
I will also take a moment here to register my distaste with the use of the word "pitiful" here as well as Bella's "stupid, stupid, stupid" at the end of last chapter in reference to her obsession with Edward Cullen. I'm not much of a fan of Bella putting herself down like this, not the least of which because I'm torn on the question of whether or not she actually means it. Is there a term for something who simultaneously exhibits low self-esteem whilst also feeling inherently superior to almost everyone around them? Wikipedia claims this is a common subset of superiority complexes, but this seems to be crying out for a better name.
I wanted very much to talk to him, and the day after the accident I tried. The last time I'd seen him, outside the ER, we'd both been so furious. I still was angry that he wouldn't trust me with the truth, even though I was keeping my part of the bargain flawlessly. But he had in fact saved my life, no matter how he'd done it. And, overnight, the heat of my anger faded into awed gratitude.
What's interesting to me here is the assertion that Bella is keeping her part of the bargain "flawlessly" -- now "always a bad liar" Bella is lying to us again. Bella is not keeping her part of the bargain. She's playing up Edward as the hero of the accident, in part because she wants to use him to deflect attention from herself and in part because she likes to keep hearing her audience reassure her that they saw Edward nowhere near her before the accident.
The facts are these: Edward performed an impossible feat, and he and Bella know it. Edward saved Bella's life, and everyone in school knows it. It is possible that someone else noticed Edward's starting position and just hasn't thought too closely about the physics of the situation.
If Bella were really trying to keep Edward's secret, the answer would not be to keep insisting that EDWARD IS A HERO. No, the best way to keep Edward's secret would be for her to grin-and-bear all the attention, gamely elaborate on the unimportant events in the day (how cold she was lying on the parking lot, how much the head wound hurt, what the ride to the hospital was like, and so forth), and avoid dwelling any more than possible on that Edward guy who happened to be right next to her in time to save her life.
And the thing is, Bella should know this. I can tell you from personal experience that when you know you're a bad liar, you become very skilled at avoiding situations where flat-out lying is necessary. It's usually pretty easy to manipulate a conversation away from a key point that you need to avoid, and given that the students are apparently not even remotely interested in Edward, it should be easy for Bella to stay off the subject entirely.
This is especially interesting to me in light of Edward's telepathy. Obviously Edward can't read Bella's mind to see that she's "flawlessly" keeping her part of the bargain; all he can hear is that every time anyone asks Bella about the accident, she immediately starts gushing to them how Edward -- who they didn't even see standing next to her -- pushed her out of the way and saved her life and he's a gorram hero. Edward should be spending the entire week grinding his teeth down to nubs in frustration -- given Bella's passive-aggressive thank god Edward was right there, right? statement to Carlisle, he should think she's trying to expose him with all this "hero" business.
He was already seated when I got to Biology, looking straight ahead. I sat down, expecting him to turn toward me. He showed no sign that he realized I was there.
"Hello, Edward," I said pleasantly, to show him I was going to behave myself.
Sweeping past the "behave myself" line, I will give credit where credit is due: Bella has finally noticed that Edward saved her life. I should be gratified by this, and yet unpleasable cranky person that I am... I'm not. I have to ask myself why that is.
Maybe it's because it seems like this is the worst possible time for the gratitude to sink in. I felt like Bella owed Edward a bit of respect and gratitude at the hospital, but that was before he smirked incessantly about her being in pain, clearly enlisted his father in some kind of bizarre cover-up, openly broke his promise without a trace of remorse, and then gloated about Bella being disappointed in her search for an answer and a recommendation that she enjoy her big dose of disappointment.
It seems to me that for Bella to be snarky to Edward before all that (back when she still thought he might hold to his promise) and then grateful to Edward after he's basically told her Where She Can Go (so to speak), that everything is dreadfully back-to-front. We talked last week about events not seeming to faze Bella in a realistic, expected manner and this would be one of those times: as much as the guy just saved your life, he was also incredibly rude immediately afterwards (in a variety of ways, even!) and it stands to reason that most people would feel something a little more conflicted than just awed gratitude and meek submission.
He turned his head a fraction toward me without meeting my gaze, nodded once, and then looked the other way.
And that was the last contact I'd had with him, though he was there, a foot away from me, every day. I watched him sometimes, unable to stop myself -- from a distance, though, in the cafeteria or parking lot. I watched as his golden eyes grew perceptibly darker day by day. But in class I gave no more notice that he existed than he showed toward me. I was miserable. And the dreams continued.
Thank god Mr. Banner got the memo that this was the Romantic Tension Building portion of the novel and he stopped requiring the students to work with their lab partners during their Biology lab hour.