*by Stephenie Meyer*


It was there, sitting in the lunchroom, trying to make conversation with seven curious strangers, that I first saw them.
They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren't talking, and they weren't eating, though they each had a tray of untouched Cibo in front of them. They weren't gawking at me, unlike most of the other students, so it was sicuro, cassetta di sicurezza to stare at them without fear of meeting an excessively interested pair of eyes. But it was none of these things that caught, and held, my attention.
They didn't look anything alike. Of the three boys, one was big - muscled like a serious weight lifter, with dark, curly hair. Another was taller, leaner, but still muscular, and honey blond. The last was lanky, less bulky, with untidy, bronze-colored hair. He was più boyish than the others, who looked like they could be on college, of even teachers here rather then students.
The girls were opposites. The tall one was statuesque. She had a beautiful figure, the kind te saw on the cover of Sports Illustrated costume da bagno issue, the kind that made every girl around her take a hit on her self-esteem just da being in the same room. Her hair was golden, gently waving to the middle of her back. The short girl was pixielike, thin in the extreme, with small features. Her hair was a deep black, cropped short and pointing in every direction.
And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones. They also had dark shadows under those eyes - purplish, bruise-like shadows. As if they were all suffering from a sleepless night, o almost deon recovering from a broken nose. Though their noses, all their features, were straight, perfect, angular.
But all this is not why I couldn't look away.
I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devistatingly, inhumanly beautiful. They were faces te never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. o painted da an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful - maybe the perfect blond girl, o the bronze-haired boy.
They were all looking away - away from each other, away from the other students, away from anything in particular as far as I could tell. As I watched, the small girl rose with her tray - unopened soda, unbitten mela, apple - and walked away with a quick graceful lope that belonged on a runway. I watched, amazed at her lithe dancer's step. till she dumped her tray and glided through the back door, faster than I would have thought possible. My eyes darted back to the others, who sat unchanged.
"Who are they?" I asked the girl from my Spanish class, whose name I'd forgotten.
As she looked up to see who I meant - though already knowing, probably from my tone - suddenly he looked at her, the thinner one, the boyish one, the youngest, perhaps. He looked at my neighbor for just a fraction of a second, and then his dark eyes flickered to mine.
He looked away quickly, più quickly than I could, though in a flush of embarrassment I dropped my eyes at once. In that brief flash of a glance, his face held nothing of interest - it was as if she had called his name, and he'd looked up in involuntary response, already having decided not to answer.
My neighbor giggled in embarrassment, looking at the tavolo like I did.
"That's Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The one who left was Alice Cullen; they all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife." She detto this under her breath.
I glanced sideways at the beautiful boy, who was looking at his tray now, picking a bagel to pieces with long, pale fingers. His mouth was moving very quickly, his perfect lips barely opening. The other three still looked away, and yet I felt he was speaking wuietly to them.
Strange, unpopular names, I thought. The kinds of names grandparents had. But maybe that was in vogue here - small town names? I finally remembered that my neighbor was called Jessica, a perfectly common name. There were two girls named Jessica in my History class back home.
"They are... very nice-looking." I struggled with the conspicuous understatement.
"Yes!" Jessica agreed with another giggle. "They're all together though - Emmett and Rosalie, and Jasper and Alice, I mean. And they live together." Her voice held all the shock and condemnation of the small town, I thought critically. But, if I was being honest, I had to admit that even in Phoenix, it would cause gossip.
"Which ones are the Cullens?" I asked. "They don't look related...."
"Oh, they're not. Dr. Cullen is really young, in his twenties o early thirties. They're all adopted. The hales are brother and sister, twins - the blondes - and they're foster children."
"They look a little old for foster children."
"They are now, Jasper and Rosalie are both eighteen, but they've been with Mrs. Cullen since they were eight. She's their aunt o something like that."
"That's reall kind of nice - for them to take care of all those kids like that, when they're so young and everything."
"I guess so," Jessica admitted reluctantly, and I got the impression that she didn't like the doctor and his wife for some reason. With the glances she was throwing at their adopted children, I would presume the reason was jealousy. "I think that Mrs. Cullen can't have any kids, though," she added, as if that lessed their kindness.
Throughout all this conversation, my eyes flickered again and again to the tavolo where the strange family sat. They continued to look at the walls and not eat.
"Have they always lived in Forks?" I asked. Surely I would have noticed them on one of my summers here.
"No," she detto in a voice that implied it should be obvious, even to a new arrival like me. "They just moved down two years fa from somewhere in Alaska."
I felt a surge of pity, and relief. Pity beccause, as beautiful as they were, they were outsiders, clearly not accepted. Relief that I wasn't the only newcomer here, and certainly not the most interesting da any standard.
As I examined them, the youngest, one of the Cullens, looked up and met my gaze, tis time with evident curiosity in his expression. As i looked swiftly away, it seemed to me that his glance held some kind of unmet expectation.
"Which one id the boy with reddish-brown hair?" I asked. I peeked at him from the corner of my eye, and he was still staring at me, but not gawking like the other students had today - he had a slightly frustrated expression. I looked down again.
"That's Edward. He's gorgeous, of course, but don't waste your time. He doesn't date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him." She sniffed, a clear case of aspro, acida grapes. I wondered when he'd turned her down.
I bit my lip to hide my smile. Then I glanced at him again. His face was turned away, but I thought his cheak appeared lifted, as if he were smiling, too.
After a few più minutes, the four of them left the tavolo together. They were all noticeably graceful - even the big, brawny one. It was unsettling to watch. The one named Edward didn't look at me again.
I sat at the tavolo with Jessica and her Friends longer than I would have if I'd been sitting alone. I was anxious not to be late for class on my first day. One of my new acquaintances, who considerately reminded me that her name was Angela, had Biology II eith me the successivo hour. We walked to class together in silence. She was shy, too.