AN: Alice's White Rabbit is wonderful and is an amazing beta!
Thank you all for reading.
Images of her dark brown eyes and small nose covered in freckles would appear every time I blinked. Her head, alone, in the dew covered grass.
The stories circulating around the town about Angela's death were fabricated and made my stomach turn. The truth of the discovery was bad enough. The way my fellow students were dragging Angela's name through the mud was a travesty.
"I'm going to have a curfew set up," my dad stated. He held his coffee cup tightly as we sat at the kitchen table. I picked at my toast. The flakes from the crust littered the plate like flakes of brown snow.
I nodded slowly. "That sounds good."
A blink. Angela's knowing eyes.
"It's safer. There has been too much death in this town. I thought it was just kids being stupid and glorifying suicide. I thought that accident that happened to Michael Newton was just bad luck. But there's been too much death around here. It just ain't right." His voice trailed off. It was minutes before he spoke again. "There is something terribly wrong in this town."
My eyes met his. I was so very tired. "There is."
Slowly I stood and walked to the coffee pot. Pouring the dark liquid into the mug, I let the steam caress my face.
"You a little young for that, Bella?"
"I'm almost eighteen, Dad." I didn't even turn from the sink. Tears began to stream down my eyes. "I just need to stay awake. The dreams—"
I felt his strong arms around me. My father. My champion. "Oh, baby, I'm so sorry. You've been through the wringer these past weeks."
Wrapping my arms around my dad, I cried.
"All Angela wanted was to have a sleepover, Daddy. Her dad wouldn't let her." My tears dampened his shirt. "I was going to have you talk to him. She was so good. She deserved to be happy. To be alive."
"Oh, Bells," he whispered into the top of my head. His grip tightened, and I felt his watering eyes on my hair.
I wept for my friend. I wept because of my fear of this unknown darkness.
Gianna Delucci and Johnny Clark weren't supposed to be at the ravine. They were supposed to be at the library that afternoon studying for an algebra exam, not taking Johnny's rusty Honda Civic out into the woods. The trip was filled with quick kisses as Gianna's hand rested on the bulge in Johnny's pants, causing the car to swerve on the gravel road.
The ravine was normally deserted. It was located near a cemetery that contained the bones of the ancestors that founded the town. The old-timers, who were born and would most likely die in Forks, still told the tales of this area being haunted. They would spin their tales during the annual Halloween festivities at the firehouse, causing countless young children's nightmares. The youngsters would shiver under their covers, hide their heads under pillows, and pray that the breeze they felt on their necks wasn't the icy breath of Old Man Higgins. That the tingle that crept up their ankle wasn't his skeletal fingers attempting to pull young souls into the afterlife.
Johnny used to fear this place. He was one of those little ones who would crawl into his parents' bed and snuggle into his mother's arms for protection from the underworld. That was in the past, and in the present, the questionable bravado of the hormonal teenager reigned supreme; he laughed off the stories that terrorized him. It was far more important to Johnny and his libido to get to third base with his girlfriend.
His girlfriend was far less comfortable with their destination. She knew Rosalie and Jane in passing. Gianna had no tolerance for mean girls, and those two had a way of taking nicer students down with backhanded compliments. Gianna wasn't planning on mourning their loss. Mike's death, she, however, rejoiced. A few dates had made it abundantly clear that Mike Newton had boundaries, and when he crossed the line that one summer night—
No, Gianna would not be weeping at their graves. The feeling of something going terribly wrong when they died did concern her. Her grandmother was extremely superstitious. Nonni's worry and prayers only increased. She had begged her granddaughter not to leave the house, and after several signs of the cross and a large amount of holy water sprinkled on the girl, finally Nonni relented.
That's the thing about young love. Gianna knew better than to travel to the ravine, but Johnny could talk her into anything.
Pulling up in a clearing, the light filtering through the limbs of the trees, Gianna almost found the location beautiful. That changed as she glanced over to the left where the crumbling tombstones made her think of zombie movies where arms with decaying flesh burst through the ground. Even Johnny's mouth on her neck couldn't ease her discomfort.
"Baby, why are you so tense," Johnny whispered as his hand fondled her breast. He didn't want her to think he was only trying to have sex with her. This was the girl he was planning on marrying one day. "Enjoy this."
"John, don't you feel it? There's something wrong." Her eyes flickered back and forth. She thought she saw something floating in the water.
Johnny kissed her softly. His hand stroked the side of her face. "I love you, Chicken Little. Let's go out there and I can show you there's nothing to worry about."
"I . . . I . . . Don't want to . . . Go." Her body was trembling.
"I'll go check. You'll see. I'll always keep you safe." His lips pressed to her forehead, and he was out the door before she could protest.
Johnny had thought Gianna's worries were silly as he felt a chill. He zipped up his coat. God, he hated winter. That nutty grandma of hers filling her head with irrational fears. He would just have to prove to her there was nothing evil in that ravine.
He strolled confidently toward the water and that's when he saw it. There was a body floating in the pond. It was bloated, and even though Johnny knew it was too late to save the person, he stumbled to it.
He only made it a couple of steps when he tripped in the tall grass over an object. Falling backward, Johnny landed on the ground and found himself staring at the head of Angela Weber. Her dark eyes staring at him. She was kind and sweet. He had loved her once when they were only small children. He brought her gifts of crayons and butterscotch. Reverend Weber called them sinners, and Johnny was too afraid to speak to her again.
Gianna watched him from the windshield. Johnny's eyes filled with tears, and he screamed. The sounds of despair filled the air. At that moment, Gianna knew for certain Forks was cursed.
"I dreamed of Angela last night," Edward announced as we trudged slowly toward the Weber house. "She said to be careful."
"It was a dream." I didn't believe my words at all. I knew he saw things others couldn't. I tightened my hold on the baked ziti I was bringing to Angela's family. The heat of the dish warmed my hands through my threadbare mittens. "We can talk about it later."
He grabbed my arm and his face was so pale. There was dark circles under his eyes. I almost yelled at him for making me almost drop the food, but instead I said, "You barely slept."
"Angela's a chatty girl when she gets started." He rubbed his eyes. "She wants us to talk to Laurent. We need to get Tyler on board."
He kissed me. The words died on my lips. Edward's tongue crept into my mouth and our tongues danced together. He made me want more. He made me feel like living again.
We broke apart slowly. I hesitantly asked, "What was that for?"
"Angela told me to shit or get off the pot when it comes to you," Edward explained with a grin.
"She wouldn't talk like that." Angela was far too shy for that.
He gave a sad smile. "Angela was far more eloquent. She said we are stronger together. Also, I needed to stop being a sexist idiot."
I tried to blink away some tears. "I miss her."
"She misses you too." He took the ziti out of my hands, and I linked my arm to his.
Angela's old, green house was a few blocks from mine. The trees-lined streets seemed barren with the loss of leaves. The tree's looked like skeletons. All the houses seemed to have lost their shine, and the gardens were barren patches of dirt. It reflected my mood due to all the tragedy that filled my life in the recent weeks. Everything around me was dead.
We slowly approached the house. I was nervous to try to comfort Angela's grieving mother and to stand up to her father's withering stare. That man had treated his daughter terribly. I just wished he would have felt some remorse. Instead, he wandered through town acting pompous and self-righteous. As if Angela was to blame.
"The door is open," Edward stated, dropping the dish. It shattered all over the sidewalk. Sauce and noodles splattered everywhere.
He rushed up the porch stairs and into the house. "Edward! Wait!"
I'm a police chief's daughter, and there is one thing about which I can be certain. You never go into a house without backup when you get a hunch something bad was happening. This was certainly one of those times. I went for my phone and found it missing. I must have left it on the kitchen table. It would have been best to call the police station from a neighbor's house, but Edward was in there.
Edward Cullen was an impetuous fool, but I cared for him. I headed into the house like the stupid teenager in a horror film. It was fitting because I felt every bit the stupid teenager at that moment.
The smell was wretched. It filled my nostrils and I started choking on the stench. I was able to gasp out, "Edward?"
"Go back outside, Bella." I heard him say. "Goddamn, busy signal."
I followed his voice into the kitchen. Edward's back was pressed against the wall. He was punching a number into his cell phone and staring with horrified eyes at the kitchen island where Mrs. Weber was laid out. There was blood everywhere. A kitchen knife planted in her chest. The dishwasher was still open where she was loading the lunch dishes.
"Oh my God!" I whispered.
"What the hell is wrong with Forks? This is a fucking emergency!" Edward roared at his phone. He was in shock.
I tried not to look at the lifeless corpse of Mrs. Weber. She was a nice person who had a shitty husband. It wasn't fair. That's when I saw a photograph attached to the refrigerator with a cross magnet. It was of Angela and her twin toddler brothers at a church picnic. Their smiles were forced. A portrait of a family in pain.
"Matthew and Peter! Where are the boys!" I thought I was going to vomit. The two-year-old boys were dark-haired and big-eyed like their sister. "We need to find them!"
"We need to call your dad!" He tried to stop me, but I shrugged him off.
"You search down here and keep calling. I'll look upstairs." I kissed him for luck; I wanted him to be my four-leaf clover. "Stay safe."
As I rushed to the stairs, I heard his plea. "Bella, stay."
I kept going and started throwing open doors to bedrooms and closets. The rose wallpaper in the darkened hallway was ominous. The dreary day was not allowing sunlight to light my way and the shadows were playing tricks on my subconscious. I kept going, but there was no sign of the boys anywhere. I was partly relieved. If they were murdered too, I was certain my heart couldn't take it.
The last door on the left was Angela's bedroom. The pale gray walls did not bring any comfort, and the bedspread was a simple white. The room looked like a hospital room, not the sanctuary of a teenager. A painting of Jesus hung on the wall looking more morose than serene. The only thing that showed any piece of the girl who lived here was a worn teddy bear that sat against Angela's pillow on the bed. Its limp neck hung to the side. My heart continued to break for my friend.
I took a deep breath and opened her closet. Her dresses hung limply on their wire hangers. A tear snaked down my cheek. I continued to check under her bed by lifting the dust ruffle. There was nothing there.
"Isabella, I suggest you get up and sit on the bed," I heard the deep voice of Angela's father. Slowly, I turned my head to see Reverend Weber staring down at me. He had a gun pointed at my head.
I slowly stood and sat on the bed. There was an old porcelain lamp on the bedside table, and I tried to form a useless plan. A useless plan for a stupid teenager who was searching a crime scene.
"Little sinner girls deserve to die, Isabella," the reverend announced. He waved the gun at my head. "Angela was a useless slut who had impure thoughts. My love told me she desired the touch of that Yorkie boy. My love never lies!"
"Mrs. Weber?" My dad always told me it's important to keep them talking. If he talks, he would be less likely to kill me before the police arrived. If they arrived.
"Of course not, you stupid girl! My love is pure beauty, and you forsook her! Angela didn't pay her tribute either!" He pressed the gun to my temple. I prayed to God, but I was afraid God was no longer in this house of horrors. "The way she writhed on top of me. She was the personification of pure perfection! She told me to kill Angela to please her!"
The feeling of cold steel on my head would be replaced by pure pain, I imagined. I must keep him talking. "Who are you talking about?"
"Rosalie loved you more than me!" Reverend Weber screamed in my face. I was going to die. "Do you know how that feels!"
I heard Edward yell. "Bella, I found the boys! They're safe!"
The gun left my head. "Claire said they were at the neighbors! That bitch lied to me! Those boys need to be brought back to Jesus!"
The man started spinning around in circles and clutching his head with the side of the gun against it. He was clearly insane. The reverend turned his back to me, and I grabbed the lamp. I hit him over the head with it.
It didn't faze him a bit. Reverend Weber grabbed me by the neck.
"Bella!" I heard Edward's feet start running up the stairs.
I managed to scream, "Stay downstairs, Edward! Keep the boys safe!"
"I'm going to rid God's beautiful earth of Jezebels like you!" The gun was pressed to my mouth. His gaze left me and he looked at the window. His face became serene. "Rosalie? Love, you look like an angel!"
There was silence and the reverend's face became a grimace. I saw Edward in the doorway. He mouthed, "Your dad is on his way."
"I hate her, Rosalie! My angel, please let me kill this slut!" Reverend Weber cried. "No! My love! No!"
I was pushed to the ground. Reverend Weber's arm was moving, but it didn't look like he wanted it to. Edward ran over to me and pulled me into his arms. "We need to get out of here!"
"My love, why have you forsaken me!" Angela's father screamed. "I did everything you asked!"
The gun went up to his temple.
"Please love me!"
The gun went off and the minister fell to the floor in a heap. He was dead and on his way to hell.
"Come on, pretty, I hear your dad—" His hand was on my waist and he pulled it off. It was covered in fresh blood. "He hurt you!"
"No . . . I . . ." I looked down to find the outline of a butterfly on my shirt in blood. Edward lifted my shirt gently and it was carved into the skin of my stomach.