Hi, everyone! (: New story! Inspired by Lana Del Rey's "Ride" video.

Some warnings to take to heart:

There will be an age gap between Bella and Edward. Edward will be 26 and Bella will be 16 at the start. They will age, though, as the story progresses. If this is an issue for you, though, this might not be the story for you ;)

This chapter contains references to sexual abuse. If that is a trigger warning for you, feel free to PM me if you'd like more information.

Dark themes will be at play throughout the entire story, but I don't see it ever being any more intense than the first two chapters.

All the characters will be incredibly flawed. Please keep that in mind.

And now, please continue reading if you'd like (:

1. Cruel World

I didn't like the way he looked at me.

I never did.

He always found excuses to touch me, to run his hand down my arm or brush his fingers on my cheek. I would hold still and be quiet, staring up at him with my empty eyes until he stopped. He'd laugh, say something cruel.

Mom was always too high to notice.

"Don't touch me," I whisper one night when he grabs my wrist.

His breath smells like beer and cigarettes and heat. He tightens his hold around my skin and bones, bruising me, but I still don't try to pull away. I've seen what happens to Mom when she fights back, and I can't afford to have a black eye at school. The girls already say enough about me.

"You're so pretty, Bella girl," he says against my temple.

His touch and words disgust, and my stomach roils.

"Let go," I say, my voice a hollow hum.

"Prettier than your mama." James' free hand skims down my neck, his fingers tapping against my pulse. "And so young and sweet. Your mother's a whore, you know. Worn out. Broke in."

I shut my eyes. I imagine myself somewhere else, somewhere pretty—not in this dusty-dry Texas desert where the air cooks and the trailer suffocates. It's all I know, but I feel the desire for so much more.

"Give me a kiss, little girl."

"Stop," I say, his voice ruining my dreams, cutting through images of paradise and open road and pulling me back to this broken-old place we live. "Just stop."

"Kiss me," he says, and the fingers on my neck become restrictive. He tightens them and shoves me back against the wall. My head aches and my heart strains.

I could scream, but no one would come to check on me. This is a place of minded-business and don't ask, don't tell.

I could beg, but drunken minds don't listen.

I could cry, but he would only like that.

I can't help the little tear that falls from the corner of my squinted-shut eye, though.

"Let go," I say again, trying to go numb to quiet the cold-rising panic in my stomach.

His fingers tense against my throat, and it's getting hard to breathe. His eager lips are only a whisper away from mine, and I want to die. I do. I wish I were dead so I could at least be free.

But Mom comes home and ruins his plans.

As soon as her key hits the lock, he lets me go and falls back onto the couch. Mom walks in to find me teary-eyed and frozen against the wall, but she barely notices. Her consumed black eyes are too drug-hazy to see.

So I just go to my room and lock my door, knowing that if James really wanted to, not even that could stop him.

"Hey," I say to Sam.

He glances over at me from beneath the hood of a broken-down car and frowns. It's his way of saying hello.

"I need a favor," I murmur quietly, squinting in the hot-dry sunlight.

Sam straightens to his full, towering height. He's comically larger than me, standing a good foot and a half taller. He's big and muscular and dark, wearing an oil-stained T-shirt. He's halfway in love with me and it radiates grudgingly out of his deep, brown eyes.

"What?" he asks.

"Do you have a gun?"

Sam is a man of few words, and even fewer expressions, so his face never changes. He just shrugs.

"How much?" I inquire.

"Why do you need a gun, Bella?" Sam wipes his hand on an old shop rag and tosses it to the other side of his garage.

The apparent owner of the car he's working on peeps in from the closet-space that's called an office. "Close to being finished?" the woman asks. "I have that meeting I told you about."

Sam just stares at her and she quickly ducks back inside. He's not known for customer service, but everyone in town gets their car fixed by him because he can do it right.

"Why?" Sam asks me again.

"Protection. Mama's dealing with unsavory people," I say.

"You don't even know how to shoot."

"I'm sure I can learn."

Sam rolls his eyes and looks away from me, back to the inside parts of the car. "You know it would be illegal."

"It goes without saying."

"Well, I am saying it." Sam's irritable. "Because if you get caught with it, you'll be wishing you'd have listened."

"I won't get caught," I say softly. And then I add, "Please?"

Sam blows out a breath and then meets my eyes again. There's conflict warring in his gaze. He finally just looks away, shakes his head.

I touch the gun carefully. It's cold and heavy in my hand. It feels electric-dangerous.

I hide it under my bed.

I'm the daughter of a druggie whore, and everyone knows it.

I try to live a detached dream life. It's not very hard for a girl like me, so inclined to drift and be vague and get lost in half-formed thoughts and pretty words I make up, but it still hurts when I hear the things they say about me.

They just don't understand. No one does.

I'm lost in a sea of uncaring hearts and misconception.

"Smoke with me, baby girl," Mama says, reaching out for me as I pass. Her fingers are shaky, and she's blanketed in white smoke.

I sit down next to her and pull a cigarette from her pack. I light it carefully and pull in a deep lungful of burning, killing smoke. I make smoke rings when I exhale, watching them quiver and disappear.

"How's school?" Mama asks me tiredly, pulling her fingers through my dark, dark curls.


She smiles, resting her head back against the couch. She curls her thin, sun-tanned legs up to her bony chest and stares up at me with dazed eyes. "You never did like school."

I blow more smoke rings, and my eyes fall to Jesus—the picture of him Grandma had hanging, the one Mom never bothered taking down after Grandma died and Mom moved in.

I pray to this picture every night.

"I think James is cheating on me, Bells." Mom's voice is crackly and teary all of a sudden, the drugs making her moods shift with the wind.

I don't say anything. I just keep staring at Jesus.

"Does he leave the house when I go out? Does he have women over?" Mom inquires quickly, her fingers now tugging at my hair, desperate for answers.

"No," I say with a cloud of smoke.

Mom rubs her fingers against her lips and puts out her cigarette. "He's been acting different. We don't even have sex anymore."

My stomach lurches.

He tried to kiss me is right on my tongue, but I can't get it out.

"I just don't know what to think." Mama sits up and grabs her purse. She finds a baggy and pours a white-powdered line on our coffee table. With a rolled up bill, she snorts her life away.

I watch with dull interest as I continue my less dangerous addiction.

"I'm worried," she tells me, straightening. Lost eyes find mine. She looks teary again, panicked. "What if he leaves like your daddy?"

I wish he would.

But that would just make Mama angry.

She's terrifying when she's angry and high.

"I think I love him," she says, putting her shameful habit back into her purse. She stands up and paces because she can't be still. She fixes herself a glass of tea and grinds her teeth. "He's the best thing that's ever happened to me, Bells. I can't lose him."

I feel sick.

"What do you think, Bella? What do you think I should do?" Mama demands, getting irritable with my lack of response. "Or are you going to sit there all night, doing nothing?"

I put my cigarette out.

I finally say, "He tried to kiss me."

Mama doesn't even hear. She doesn't want to.

Let me know what you think! (: