I flip open the fresh pack of cigarettes and fish the lighter from my pocket. As the flame lights up, I place the cigarette between my lips, but just before I can light it there's a breath of air and the flame flickers out.
"How fucking old are you?" I spit, lowering my cigarette and narrowing my eyes.
Rosalie grins and brushes a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes. She flops onto the couch in my bedroom and kicks her feet up, eyes dancing.
"Really? Get your fucking shoes off my couch."
I successfully light my cigarette this time and exhale a breath of warm nicotine. I'm going to need it if I have to put up with Rosalie all night.
"You know you're not supposed to smoke in the house," she comments in a prude voice.
"And you're not supposed to have your fucking shoes on my couch, but here we are," I make a sweeping gesture with my hands around the room. "Besides, where are Esme and Carlisle? On a fancy business trip is per usual."
I roll my eyes and cross the room, grabbing Rosalie's ankles and thrusting them off the couch.
"Hey!" she shouts. "You don't have to be so rough."
"What do you want, Rose?" I take a long pull off my cigarette and sit down next to her.
"Esme and Carlisle aren't on a business trip," she says with a cool smile. "They've gone to meet with a woman from the NWAE."
"You're joking," I stop and stare at her blankly. "They're adopting another fucking baby?"
"Fostering," she corrects, moving to a comfortable sitting position and crossing her legs like the lady I know she isn't. "And she isn't a baby, she's sixteen."
"Why the fu-"
"The state pays them, idiot. And we both know how much Esme loves her elegance," she motions around the room.
I roll my eyes. Carlisle is a doctor and Esme is an architect. No one is short on money in our house, but Esme will take all she can get. I was the second child they adopted, when I was seven. Jasper and Rosalie were first; twins they adopted at the early age of three. And then they topped it off with Alice at age 11. It'd been years since they'd adopted a child, and we'd all thought they were finished. Apparently, without consulting another fucking person in the house, they'd decided to add another member to our not-so-perfect family.
"Another Cullen to make this house a home," I say sarcastically, putting emphasis on the word 'home'.
"It's not permanent, you know. You do know what fostering is, right?"
I lean down until my face is dangerously close to Rosalie's, "Do I look stupid to you?"
"Do you want me to lie or tell you the truth?" She teases darkly.
"Get out, now," I growl, pointing to the door.
I shove the butt of the cigarette into an ashtray on my nightstand and point to my door once again, forcing her out of my room reluctantly. Rosalie is a bitch. She and I never got along as children. She would always break things and spill things then tell Esme it was me, and I'd get in trouble. She's a manic manipulator and I've never trusted her. I can handle Alice easier than Rosalie, but she gets on my fucking nerves. She's always dancing around the house and singing, preaching some shit about self-love, and being regularly ditsy. Jasper is about the only person I can stand in the house, but even he has his regular moments where he just pisses me the fuck off. Admittedly, it's easily done.
"You're such a friendly individual, Edward. Thank you for your company," she says sarcastically, closing the door loudly behind her.
I sit on the couch and bend down to pull my shoes on. Another fucking Cullen? That's the last thing we need. I'm fuming, and need to release some pent up energy. I grab a hoodie from my closet and drag it over my head, exiting my room. I can hear Jasper, Rosalie, and Alice all deep in discussion in the living room as I make my way down the stairs.
"This is so exciting! I wonder what she's like," Alice says, practically bouncing in her seat.
"This is so not exciting," I mimic flatly.
"It wouldn't kill you to be happy for two seconds, Edward," Rosalie comments, not daring to make eye contact with me.
Jasper grins, sensing my annoyance. He thinks it's hilarious when Rose and I fight, which we regularly do. He tries to hide is smile from her, but her laughing eyes spot him and her face hardens.
"It's a chance I'm just not willing to take," I respond, resting my hands on the back of the couch and daring Rosalie to challenge me.
She knows better, though, having lost too many arguments with me over the course of her life. Or maybe she decides to pick her battles better, but either way she turns the subject back to the foster girl.
"I don't know, maybe it'll be nice. It's one more person-"
"-that we don't fucking need–"
"-it could work-"
"-OK!" Alice shouts, throwing her hands in the air. "Edward, you're brooding and want to be miserable. We got it! Rosalie, you have too much fun provoking Edward. Both of you, stop it."
I step back and shove my hands in the pocket of my sweats. I'm finished with the conversation. I turn on my heel and head out the large, front door. Just before it shuts behind me, I hear Alice swearing how great this is going to be.
I don't fucking think so.
When I return from my two mile run, I'm out of breath and drenched in a cool sweat. I tear my hoodie and shirt off in the living room, wiping sweat from my bare chest and stomach, and deposit the soiled clothes on the couch. The maid can attend to that. I can hear quiet chatter from the kitchen. I think I hear Carlisle's voice, and it's enough to propel me up the stairs as to avoid him and Esme.
Shit. I rake my fingers through my hair and follow the sound of Esme's voice. In the kitchen, Rosalie is sitting atop the counter, a half eaten apple in hand. Jasper and Alice are in discussion with Carlisle but they stop when they see me. And standing between Carlisle and Esme is the new girl. I dislike her the minute I see her. She's painstakingly boring to look at. Her lifeless brown hair hangs down in front of her face, like she's trying to hide. She's wearing cheap jeans, old sneakers, and a plain black jacket. I can't help but smile, though, because I know her outfit is driving Esme mad. I exhale, decide the girl isn't worth a second glance, and turn to Esme.
"This is Bella," she says with a smile, putting a hand on Bella's shoulder.
The girl flinches away as if Esme slapped her. My face distorts in disapproval. What the fuck is wrong with her?
"Sorry," Esme mutters. "I'm sorry, Bella. I forgot."
Rosalie hops off the counter, shooting Bella a nasty grin over her shoulder, and walks behind me.
"She doesn't like to be touched," Rose whispers with a quiet laugh, exiting the room.
I roll my eyes at Rosalie. She's hazing Bella, but I don't care. She doesn't belong here anyway.
"Bella," Carlisle says softly. "This is Edward."
Her large, brown eyes flit to me for half a second, her face burns bright red, and then she looks down at her shoes. I feel myself grow annoyed quickly. She doesn't like to be touched and she can't even look people in the eyes. She has some serious fucking issues. I don't even know what to say to her, and I really can't make myself care. Esme gives me a stern look, and I roll my eyes again.
"Hi," I force out, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
She remains silent, still staring at her shoes. I raise my eyebrows expectantly and shift my gaze from Bella to Esme.
"Well? Is she deaf or something?"
Bella's eyes grow wide and she looks up at me, her lips parting slightly like she wants to speak but then she closes her mouth and, of fucking course, looks away again.
"Edward!" Esme exclaims. "Don't be so rude!"
"Come on, man. Lets head upstairs," Jasper says, hitting my arm as he walks past me. "Nice to meet you, Bella."
I tear my eyes away from Esme's glare and dare one more look at the new girl. I pause for a second, waiting for her to look up at me like I know she will even though I know she doesn't want to. And, like always, I'm right. Her brown eyes find mine and she flushes bright red again and looks away once more. I chuckle, shake my head, and leave the room without another word.
"Man, she went through some serious shit before she got fostered out," Jasper said, shaking his head and taking a seat on my couch.
"Shoes," I warn him, narrowing my eyes before he even dares to prop his feet up.
He ignores me and continues, "She was adopted out when she was younger and lived with them up until a year ago. They beat her and shit, probably did more than that but Esme likes to sweeten things a little bit."
A small part of me feels bad for her, but a larger part of me wishes she wasn't so fucking weak.
"She doesn't talk," he says.
"At all? She doesn't say anything?" I ask, raising my eyebrows.
"Nope. Hasn't said a word in years."
"So basically, you're telling me that Esme and Carlisle adopted the most fucked up girl in the entire country. She doesn't speak, she doesn't like to be touched, and she can't stand to look people in the eyes. They hit the fucking lottery."
"Ease up, man. She's had it rough. We probably don't know the half of it," he says gently, furrowing his brows at me.
"Whatever," I say reluctantly. "At least if she's quiet, I'll like her better than your bitchy sister."
This pulls a grin across his face and he nods in agreement, "You two can't get along to save your lives."
"I blame her," I mutter, pulling a t-shirt over my head and kicking my shoes off. "When's dinner? I'm starving."
"And this is your room," she says gently, opening the door for me.
The room is large. I have my own bathroom, I notice. That brings me a little peace. There's a large, four poster bed with thick, pink sheets in the middle of the room. A small, black leather loveseat is stationed directly at the foot of the bed. There's a sliding door wardrobe on the opposite wall, next to a dresser. A small nightstand sits next to the bed, and on the other side there's a bookshelf full of books. I take a deep breath and walk inside. I've never had anything so nice, but I feel very out of place. Everything is polished, new and expensive, and I feel as though a single touch will shatter everything.
"Make yourself at home. Carlisle brought your bags up for you. You can unpack whenever you're ready. Take your time, Bella. No one here is going to hurt you," she reassures me.
I want to look at her, to tell her I understand, but ever fiber of my soul forces my eyes to my shoes. I back away from her and nod slightly.
"Dinner will be ready in an hour. If you feel comfortable enough to join us, we'd really love for you to," she offers gently.
I turn my back to her and stare around my room until I hear the door click shut quietly behind her. I look over my shoulder, just to be absolutely certain that I'm alone. She's gone. I brush my hair out of my face and tiptoe across the room to where my bags sit on the floor. I soundlessly sit down next to them, careful not to make a sound. The zipper on my bag is loud in my ears as I open the bag and begin sifting through my clothes. They're all the same – a dull collection of jeans and t-shirts. I only own one pair of shoes.
The first thing I unpack are my notebooks. They're all black and they all look exactly the same. Four of them are worn and frayed at the neck. They are my most valuable possession. After CPS finally extracted me from the my adoptive parents a year ago, I underwent extensive psycho-analogy and therapy. Since I refused to speak, part of my therapy required writing. And in these notebooks I wrote everything – everything I endured, everything they did to me, said to me, and everything I felt. The notebooks have become my only outlet, and I cherish them. They're the only thing that never changes, no matter where I go or what anyone says or does to me. So I unpack them first and place them beneath my mattress, where they will stay unless I am writing in them.
I spend the next forty-five minutes unpacking my clothes. There's no point in pretending I have anywhere else to go, no point in leaving my clothes packed away until this family decides I'm too destroyed to try and put back together, and I know this. So I force myself to hang my shirts, fold my jeans, and tuck away my suitcases beneath my bed. My fingers trail across the bright pink comforter on the bed and I wince. The color is too vibrant, too bright. I turn it back and see the underside of it is white, so I quickly pull the comforter off the bed and flip it over so it's white. There, that's better.
I fish under my bed for notebook number five and retrieve a pen from my satchel. I sit on the loveseat at the foot of my bed, tucking my legs beneath me, and begin to write about the day. I start by recounting the moment I met Esme and Carlisle.
I'm still confused as to why they wanted me, of all people. I thought I'd stay in the system until I turned eighteen. They were nice enough, nicer than Charlie and Renee ever were. Carlisle has a soft voice, but Esme seems a little more. . . High maintenance. They act like they understand me, as if they can sympathize with everything I've been through. But they still forget not to touch me and still try to coax me to look at them. They're not being mean, I think, they just really don't understand. But they want to, and that's enough for now. The manor they live in is large and expensive. I've never seen a house so large and beautiful before. I imagine if I'm here long enough, I'll try face my fear of being around people and maybe explore. I want to be better.
I didn't realize they already had kids. Teenagers, I should say. They don't show the obvious signs of abuse, not like me, and that gives me a little peace of mind. I still don't trust them, though. Not after everything that's happened so far. Their kids are alright. Alice is sweet and patient. Jasper seems distracted and disinterested, which is fine by me. The less attention I get, the better off I'll be. It's Rosalie and Edward that I'm unsure about. Though I've spent less than ten minutes around them, I feel more uneasy around them than everyone else. I know they don't understand me, and especially Edward, they don't care to. Rosalie thinks it's funny to laugh at me. She thinks I don't notice, or I'm stupid, but I do notice and I'm not stupid. I already know to stay away from Edward. His voice is hard and his eyes are cold. I fear him the most.
A glance at the clock tells me that dinner should be ready any second. I fold the notebook closed, tuck the pen on top, and slide it back under the safety of my mattress. I hug my jacket tighter around me, nerves knotting in my stomach. Do I dare go downstairs to eat? My stomach growls at the thought of food. I decide to take my therapists advice and face my fears as much as I can possibly stand, because the truth is, I really do want to be better.
I can hear them talking about me before I ever reach the dining room, and I pause to hear what they're saying.
"Should I go tell her it's ready?"
"Don't push her, Alice. She'll come down when she's ready," Esme answers.
"She's fragile, Alice," Rosalie sneers. She's making fun of me.
My face flushes and I hate myself for being embarrassed.
"Has she said one single word to you?" Edward asks in an accusatory tone.
"She doesn't speak," Carlisle defends gently. "Her case worker told us why. It's a tragic story."
He's about to tell them all what happened to me, what they did to me, and my heart begins to race. I can't believe my case worker told them at all, that's personal! Unable to stand the thought of everyone knowing the darkest shades of my past, I stride quickly into the room, face flushed red and hands shaking, and stop Carlisle mid-sentence. Everyone looks up, surprised.
"Bella," Esme says, standing abruptly. "Please, have a seat. We were just sitting down to eat."
She pulls a chair out for me between Alice and Edward, but I'm reluctant to sit. The space between them is small and confined. I lower myself slowly and swallow back the trapped feeling that knots in my throat. I rub my palms on my jeans and remember my therapists advice to just breathe. Slowly. In and out. I breathe.
I can feel Edwards boring eyes glaring at me. It makes me uncomfortable. I lower my head, allow my hair to shadow my face, and pick up my fork to eat. The conversation dies for a few minutes, and I welcome the awkward silence. Surprisingly, it is Edward who speaks first. His rough voice startles me and I jump.
"How long is she here for?"
"Edward, she's sitting right next to you. Don't talk about her like she doesn't exist," Esme scolds.
He drops his fork on his plate and rests his elbows on the table in irritation, "Well she fucking acts like she doesn't exist so that's the way I'm going to treat her."
"Edward, stop," Alice says softly.
"Did you tell her why you're fostering her?" he challenges.
I look up briefly, my curiosity getting the better of my fear, but regret it when I see familiar, cold eyes staring back at me. I mentally scold myself and look back at my plate.
"The state pays them," he says sharply, looking directly at me and placing his hand on the back of my chair.
I look up at his face and feel trapped, like I have no exit. His arm is blocking one way, and Alice is too close on the other side. My hands begin to shake. His words confuse me. Fight or flight begins to set in as the fear takes over and all of my therapy flies out the window.
"All you'll see in their eyes are dollar signs. You're nothing to them. They'll get their money and they won't care a lick about you," he says coldly.
Alice and Esme's voices rise to a shrill scream and the sound is madness to my ears. Everyone's arguing now, voices rising higher and higher. My heart begins to race. I close my eyes and try to calm down, but I'm beginning to have a panic attack and struggling to breathe. I open my eyes and see Edward with his hands clasped in his lap, watching everyone argue.
"Welcome to the family," he mutters bitterly.
Author's Note: So this is a new story I was inspired by while reading through some other fics. I hope you like it so far! Feel free to comment and tell me what you think. Any kind of feedback is greatly appreciated! :)