The Way She Talks


I. My Lips are Sealed
- Every Avenue (Trading Heartbeats)


Bella


I don't have a lot of morals or rules in life by which I abide by, but if there's one thing I've learnt over the years that has served me well, it's that in some circumstances, things are much better left unsaid.

Take today for instance.

"I guess you know why you're here, Isabella. I presume your father gave you the details?" Her voice rose at the end, turning her statement (which I'm pretty sure she knew to be true) into a question. A pair of dull grey eyes watched me carefully from behind half-rimmed glasses perched low on her nose. On her lap sat a clipboard, currently holding a sheet of paper that was blank except for the name of her patient.

Me.

Isabella Marie Swan.

I blinked a couple of times, watching as her eyes grew agitated at my lack of response. Eventually, I shifted my gaze and began counting the tiles on the floor. I'd noted twenty-four before I heard her defeated sigh. Blandly, I raised my gaze and silently questioned whether she really thought she could crack my 'condition' within five seconds of meeting me.

"I understand that for a few years now, you've chosen not to speak," she commented and this time it wasn't said as a question. It was a relief on my part, knowing she wouldn't be constantly asking me questions in hope I'd reply.

I raised my shoulders and lowered them before shaking my head.

"No?"

I nodded with emphasis.

She met my stare for a few seconds, as though she might be able to read all the answers beneath my brown eyes. Of course, this wasn't the case, but I gathered she was a smart cookie. "Ah, I see. I correct myself; you do speak, but only to some. Am I right?"

I flashed a smile and nodded, my fingers tapping excitedly on my knee.

"And I understand that it began about seven or eight years ago? Your father explained that it slowly fazed, from not speaking to strangers to not speaking to teachers to not talking to anyone but family."

I nodded, signing, "I talk to Jacob and Alice, too."

She frowned at me, creases forming across her forehead as she watched the movement of my hands. Of course, she couldn't understand British Sign Language, or any other to be precise. I wanted to smack my head in frustration. God only knows why Charlie had set me up with a therapist who couldn't understand me.

Desperate, I glanced around my surroundings and spotted two dolls which I presumed she used with the younger children she saw. Picking them up, I pointed to me and then one doll and hugged it. Waiting for no response, I then made my hand look as though it was talking, the tips of my finger facing the doll which I made nod.

Hesitantly, she guessed, "You...talk to a friend?"

I nodded, and then held up two fingers.

"Two friends, you talk to two friends."

I grinned widely and caught my reflection in the window. I looked a lot like Charlie, but there were glimpses of my mother in me which were enough to cause me pain each time I looked in the mirror. With less enthusiasm for the session, my grin dissipated.

"Well, Isabella, you're a grown girl, do you have any idea why you choose not to speak to a lot of people?"

I shrugged and began gnawing on my nails, my eyes darting nervously.

"Your father seems to believe it's linked with your mother's death," she continued, hardly waiting for a reply now. "Do you think this?"

I raised a hand, palm facing downwards and shook it so my hand titled from left to right repeatedly.

"Maybe?" she ventured.

I nodded once, my curls brushing into my view. Flipping them back, I reached into my bag for a clip and slid it into the locks to prevent them obscuring my view again.

"Well, I know that you've seen many doctors, Isabella, and nothing seems to work. I'm hoping to introduce you to a new method of therapy, if you agree to it. Your father seems excited to go ahead."

I stared straight ahead, wishing for her to continue. I wasn't particularly optimistic; after all, all the doctors had new theories and ideas to help me.

"In the past, I've found with teenagers that they best help themselves in groups. Whether they share a common problem or whether their problems are all different. Teenagers instinctively help one another out, and in the past I use this advantage in my therapy by doing it within large groups," she explained. "I'm hoping to repeat this process with you and a few students from your school."

I frowned. Our school wasn't particularly large, with around eight-hundred students, so I was a little surprised to know I wasn't the only one who needed therapy. Of course, there was my cousin, Vanessa, who was deaf and as a result, was depressed and Alice had recently been into therapy regarding her eating disorder, but they were hardly a huge group.

My surprise must have shown on my face, for she explained, "It'll only include Sixth Formers such as yourself, and there'll be around eight students in the group including yourself. That is, if everyone agrees to attending. Some, I'm afraid, have no choice because their parents are becoming desperate, but you have a choice, Isabella. Do you want to participate?"

I wanted to, but the idea of talking to my fellow classmates about both my condition, and quite possibly my mother's death, was a little disconcerting. Raising my index finger, I circle the air asking, who? When I got no response, I screwed up my nose in concentration as I tried to recall my American Sign Language lessons. The question "who?" tended to be understood by most. Finally recalling it, I used my index finger to circle my face, my brows raised in question. When I still got no response, I repeated the motion then pointed at her, repeated and then pointed at myself.

Her face relaxed in realisation. "Oh, who?"

I nodded.

"Well, I can't tell you that, Isabella, because if some choose not to attend then I'm breaching confidentiality."

I let out a frustrated sigh. Leaning over to her clipboard, I grabbed her pen and wrote "Vanessa Wolfe?".

Dr. Reed smiled warmly at me. "I've been told you two are cousins. I suppose you already not the extent of her problems?"

I nodded, pulling an exaggerated sad face.

"Yes, yes, she's very sad currently. She wants to do this, but the problem is everyone understanding her, and her understanding everyone else."

I pointed a finger at me, quickly signing her name.

"Yes, I know that you can understand her, Isabella, but I can't and I doubt the other students known how to sign."

Again, I grabbed her pen and wrote the name "Jacob Black".

"Oh, Jacob can sign?"

I nodded with a grin, pointing at the doll.

"He's a friend?"

I nodded once more, holding up a thumb.

"Very good friends. Well, seeing as how he's already agreed to attend the group therapy, I guess he can be the translator?"

I frowned and quickly signed, "Why?" Of course, I got no response so I let it go. However, there was one person I was still curious about. Once again, I leant over and wrote, "Alice Brandon?"

"Friend?" At my nod, she smiled. "She talks about you sometimes, so yes, she will be attending, but she's been given no choice by her parents."

I thought about Alice, about how her family were embarrassed of her condition. I still didn't like the idea of announcing my problems (not that I really could) to a bunch of gossiping students, but I couldn't very well leave Alice alone to be laughed at. With my decision made, I pointed at her and nodded.

"You'll come?"

I nodded again.

"That's great, Isabella!"

Grinning, I leant over for the last time and scribbled out, "Bella".


The first session was arranged for the following week, a Thursday afternoon during General Studies – a subject pretty much useless and only taught because the government enforced it. Obviously, I was somewhat happy about that, especially as the subject needed no lessons or revision because it was all pretty much basic knowledge that we'd all learnt right at the beginning of secondary school.

I was running a little late, having had to speak to the head of sixth form (or should I say he talked, I listened?) about the May Ball preparations. I'd shown him the final designs for the poster, finally announcing the masquerade theme we'd chosen on.

Heading up into the humanities block, I weaved my way between the younger students, secretly proud to be a sixth former wearing whatever I liked whilst they all had to wear the compulsory navy and light blue uniform. The counselling room was situated on the third floor, towards the Philosophy classes, and as a result I was a little out of breath once I got there. Adjusting my bag strap, I quietly opened the door.

The room wasn't as large as a classroom might be, and certainly not large enough for eight students and one adult-sized therapist. There was only the one table, of the coffee kind, which took up unnecessary space in the small area. Around it was an assortment of bean bags, pillows and two chairs – one which swivelled for Dr. Reed and one which was bright green, obviously meant for a three year old, and just the right size for my four foot ten friend, Alice.

Most had already arrived and it gave me a few seconds to survey my fellow 'retards' as society incorrectly seemed to call us.

As I already mentioned, Alice sat in the small chair wearing a pair of skinny jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Her short pixie black hair was sticking out in a way which could only occur through carefully teasing strands and a gallon of hair gel. Her skin was pale so that under the fluorescent lighting, she appeared almost albino.

In one corner, I recognised Rosalie Hale, a blonde goddess with a figure to rival my mother's. Her reputation as a bitch set me on edge almost immediately, and I was quick to speculate her problem might be of the anger-controlling kind.

Next to her sat another blond, only this one was male and much less obsessively neat. His hair, much like Alice's, was messy, but as far as I could see, there was no gel in his hair. His skin was lightly sun-kissed; as though the Greek Gods themselves had peppered his skin with delightful little kisses and even from here, I could tell his eyes were the shade of cornflower blue.

Sitting on one of the bean bags was a curly-haired Emmett McCarty. How I knew? He was notoriously a womaniser. Every Monday, without a doubt, there would be some sordid tale of how he'd seduced some unsuspecting girl, shagged her, and then disappeared. In my view, he was a dog and not even worth my attention.

Lastly, there was a boy sprawled out along the pile of cushions furthest from Dr. Reed. His long legs seemed to angle into every nook, so that I wondered just how tall he really was. His hair was unkempt and unruly, a beautiful shade of bronze which matched his striking green eyes and pale (but not too pale) skin tone. His eyes were currently closed, as though trying to escape the reality of this session.

A long, low whistle interrupted my thoughts, making my head snap towards Emmett.

"Well, well, well," he drawled, his voice an octave deeper than usual, "a looker if I ever did see one."

I felt my cheeks explode with heat, unused to male attention that wasn't my best friend or Charlie. Hoping to conceal my embarrassment, I lowered my head so that my hair brushed in front of me. It didn't conceal my view though, and I watched as the bronze-haired boy opened his eyes, looked my way before looking disgusted and closing his eyes again.

I couldn't help but feel insulted by his rejection. I wasn't damn ugly, I mean, I inherited some of my mother's good looks and Charlie was hardly ugly either. Emmett had even said I was pretty, in a crude sort of way. Then again, Emmett tended to find anything female, alive and possessing tits, pretty.

Dr. Reed raised her head. "Bella," she greeted, remembering to use the right name, "How are you today?"

I shrugged lightly. It was a Thursday, which meant a full set of lessons, hardly my idea of fun.

"Edward, would you please shift over and allow Bella to sit down?"

He opened his eyes and scowled. "Can't she sit over there?" He gestured first to the empty bean bag next to Emmett and then to the space next to Jasper.

Dr. Reed shook her head, and I didn't miss the look she sent him. "I need those two seats spare for our last two students, they need to face one another."

His scowl deepened. "Why?" he snapped out.

Alice turned in her seat and matched his darkening look. "Because one of them is fucking deaf and the other needs to translate, alright dickhead?"

I wasn't too surprised when Dr. Reed didn't tell Alice off. In my first session, she'd explained that most swear words were acceptable within these walls, if that is how we wished to express ourselves.

With a defeating sigh, he sat upright and patted the space next to me, sending me a sarcastic smile. "Come here, sugar, sit next to me."

Emmett burst out laughing as Jasper's lips twitched in mild amusement.

My blush fading, now replaced with disgust, I moved myself into the empty space, trying carefully not to knock anyone out with my bag. Once sat, I shifted myself as far away from the boy as possible.

He noticed. "So your name is Bella?"

I nodded, my eyes wary.

"Beautiful," he commented. "Italian, right?"

I rolled my eyes. How many times did a guy start that way? Jesus, as if I didn't already know how my name translated.

"I'm Edward Cullen," he informed me, flashing me a cheeky grin.

I merely nodded, turning my head away from him. I caught Emmett's eye, watching as they filled with unannounced laughter.

"I know you," he said, "you're that chick whose friends with Jacob, right?"

Alice, who had now turned her seat to face us all, interjected, "Yeah, she's friends with Jacob Black. Me, too."

"And you're that anorexic bitch, right?"

Her face darkened. "Fuck off. We all know why you're here."

"Oh, is that so?"

"Yeah, that is so. Who the fuck is a sex addict at seventeen?"

"A sexy one?"

She rolled her eyes. "You're about as sexy as my gran."

I could see something snap inside him, but obviously the guy had some good control for he quickly reeled in his anger and placed a smile on his lips. "I'd like to meet your gran because boy, must she be hot."

Alice rolled her eyes, swivelling to me. "Do you know where Vanessa and Jake are?"

I shook my head.

"Perhaps they're late."

Normally, I'd reply to Alice in an actual voice, but despite being comfortable enough to talk with her, one of my closest friends, I didn't want to whilst being surrounded by the equivalent of strangers.

On cue, the door flew open and a lanky teenage boy filled the door frame. His skin was dark, as though he'd hoped out of the Arabian Night's book, but I knew his origins stemmed from America. His long black hair was as messy as Edward's, but it fell past his collar in a style reminiscent to the seventies. His equally dark eyes met mine and a grin spread quickly across his face. And then he stumbled forwards with a curse.

"Move it, stretch," came the voice of Vanessa Wolfe, my dearly-beloved cousin. Her frame seemed dominated by Jacob's when he straightened back up, but I knew her to have a similar height to mine, around five foot four. Her skin was pale, having inherited it from my mother's sister, which caused her fiery red curls to be a dramatic contrast. Her eyes were again from my mother's side, a matching chocolate brown which was prone to show her emotions quite easily.

"How you wound me," Jacob signed, speaking the words at the same time, and rolled his eyes.

Vanessa smiled sweetly, curtsying before skipping into the room. In many ways, my cousin reminded me of Alice's dainty doll-like movements, but I knew how quickly her sweet demeanour could snap to a temper as fiery as her hair. Waving at me, she slid off her bag, dropping it with a "thud" to the floor. Still smiling, she moved onto the bean bag beside Emmett as Jacob moved to the other seat near Jasper.

Dr. Reed smiled at the arrivals. "Jacob, Vanessa, welcome. Now we're all here, shall we begin?"

Jacob began signing to Vanessa who wasn't paying attention, having just lip-read her.

Emmett, who also seemed to not be paying attention, threw his pencil at Edward and grinned. "This deaf chick is pretty hot."

Whilst Edward chuckled, I caught Jacob's attention and quickly signed a message.

Jacob laughed, catching Emmett's attention. At his questioning gaze, Jacob explained, "Bella wants to see how long it takes for you to discover that Vanessa can understand what you say." I quickly signed another message. "And to stop treating her cousin like a fucking piece of meat."

Emmett shot me a look, frowning at my hands. "She's deaf, too?"

I rolled my eyes, shaking my head as my hands moved.

"You were speaking to me earlier, and did I not respond?" Jacob translated.

Edward was darting his eyes between me and Jacob, obviously as unsure about all this as Emmett was. Even Jasper seemed to be interested.

"You're Isabella Swan, right?"

I raised my head towards Jasper and nodded, quickly spelling out my preferred name.

"Call her Bella," Jasper replied.

Nodding, Jasper's blue eyes narrowed. "I've heard about you. You're one of those mutes."

"You're right Jasper," Dr. Reed interjected, clearly pleased with the interaction. "Only, she's a selective mute."

"What the fuck does that mean?" Emmett asked.

Dr. Reed sighed. "For reasons unknown, she only speaks to her close friends and family."

"Why?"

"As I say, for reasons unknown."

Emmett scoffed, clearly unimpressed. "That's no fucking mental illness, it's just being shy."

"She's replying to you, is she not?" Dr. Reed asked. "Maybe not with her voice, but she is with her hands."

"Laaaazy," Emmett replied, drawing out the word.

I flipped him the bird, irritated with his attitude. My hands quickly moved into motion, signing a string of insults.

"You're an asshole who has nothing better to do than fuck random whores. I didn't fucking come here to be judged by a male prostitute, so unless you decide not be a jerk, fuck off, would you?" Jacob paused, his eyes trying to catch my movements. "Go suck some..." he trailed off, blushing slightly. "Bella, I can't say that!"

With my mouth closed, I gently laughed.

Dr. Reed's eyes widened. "Bella, did you just laugh?"

Frozen to the spot, I hesitantly nodded with a frown on my face.

Alice came to my rescue. "She's always laughing and giggling. Jesus, she does express her emotions, ya' know."

"I'm sorry, I just figured it was all sounds," Dr. Reed explained. "I've not had a lot of experience with mutes, but I know that they're commonly averse to making any sound."

Alice rolled her eyes. "Sometimes, if she's really desperate, she will speak to strangers."

Dr. Reed looked my way for confirmation and I nodded.

"Only, she does it like one of them ventriloquists."

"She doesn't move her lips?"

"Right!" Alice replied, clearly excited. "Sometimes she struggles because she can't make certain noises."

"Because she has her mouth closed?"

"No, she has her mouth open but she clenches her teeth together. You can hear her grinding them, too."

"Can we get her to try, right now?" Edward asked, turning his head so I could stare into those emerald-green eyes.

I shook my head. "I'm not a performing monkey," I signed, Jacob quick to translate.

"Sorry," he replied sarcastically. "It's not my fault freaks are interesting."

"Me? A freak?" I signed. "Clearly you're somewhat hypocritical as you're here, aren't you? What kind of freaky illness do you have?"

When Jacob had translated, somewhat hesitantly, Edward's eyes grew dark with unreleased anger.

Luckily, Dr. Reed interrupted. "Bella, what a good idea. Why don't we all introduce ourselves, and explain why we're here?" Nodding towards Rosalie, who until now I'd forgotten about, she said, "Why don't you start?"

"Hi," she began, growing a bored expression, "My name's Rosalie Hale and I'm here because I like to punch people."

"Nothing wrong with a good ol' fight," Emmett replied, leering at her.

"That's what I thought, but apparently if I don't 'conduct myself like a proper young lady'; I'll be kicked out of sixth form."

Dr. Reed smiled warmly, before gesturing to Jasper.

"My name's Jasper Whitlock and I'm here because I'd rather inflict pain on myself than dissect a stupid heart in Biology."

"You're a self-harmer?" Alice asked, looking over his body for any signs.

It was winter, so understandably he wore a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved jumper which covered his entire body, but at Alice's question, he rolled up his sleeves and the scars became painstakingly obvious. It was a little shocking, and I almost gasped. I'd been mainly expecting long thing red marks around his wrist, but most of his scars seemed to comprise mainly of round oblong marks.

"How do you do it?" Alice asked, as though sensing my own thoughts.

"I like to burn myself with a lighter. Sometimes I use knives and stuff, but mainly fire. It's feels better and the pain lasts longer."

I felt slightly disturbed and so glanced around. Rosalie and Jacob wore similar expressions to mine, but Vanessa and Alice appeared understanding and the boys, whom I figured were friends judging by their easy banter, seemed to already know about it, and thus appeared uncaring.

Jacob was next, and I was curious. "My name is Jacob Black, and I have a personality disorder known as HPD. It stands for Histrionic Personality Disorder."

Quick to react, I signed, "How long have you had this?"

"Since I was about eight."

I gaped at him, moving my hand to cover my mouth as I did so. The move was subconscious, and I barely noticed my actions. "What are the symptoms?"

"I don't really want to talk about it, Bella."

And with that, Alice jumped into her introduction. "My name is Mary Alice Brandon, but I hate the name Mary, so call me Alice. I'm here because I have the eating disorder, Anorexia."

This wasn't news to most, so there were no questions. Next it was Emmett.

"My name is Emmett McCarty. I'm here because my family thinks I'm a disgrace."

Dr. Reed frowned. "You're evading the truth, Emmett, but if you don't want to help yourself, I can always tell your parents."

Scowling he muttered, "I'm addicted to sex. OK?"

I guess no one dared to speak as Vanessa began signing. Jacob had missed it, so I resigned it for him.

"Oh, right. Nessie here was in an accident last year and as a result, she became deaf. She's kind of struggling with it, so she's here simply for depression."

"She's depressed?" Edward scoffed. "Yeah, right. She's chirpier than Annie over there."

Alice flinched at the name, somewhat sensitive to her illness.

Dr. Reed let out a frustrated sigh. "Edward, depression is often disguised by the person. Often, they don't want people to realise their illness or sometimes they prefer the act because it makes them feel as though they're not depressed. We'll get into it more another time. Why don't you introduce yourself?"

He rolled his eyes. "I'm Edward Cullen and my entire family, much like my amigo over there, sees me as an embarrassment."

"You addicted to sex, too?" Rosalie replied, a sneer on her face.

I couldn't help but feel daunted that, even with such a horrid expression, she still oozed perfection. Hatred bubbled up inside me. Lucky bitch.

Edward grinned. "Why, you looking to give me a test run?"

Her grin was sexy, female and obviously suggestive. "Think you got the stamina?"

Dr. Reed slammed her clipboard down onto the table. "Right, that's enough. This is a therapy session, not a chance to hook up. Edward, please go on."

"Right, right. I have Bipolar."

There was a shocked silence from most of us.

His features darkened and he slouched back against the wall. "Don't act too shocked. You act like I'm going to have the biggest mood swing ever. It doesn't quite work like that."

"How exactly does it work?" Alice asked, leaning in her seat to observe him.

He shrugged, a careless movement of his shoulders. "Most people think I'm all happy one second, all angry the next but it stretches out. I usually fall into weeks of either depression or anger."

"Guess which one he falls into currently," I signed, causing Vanessa and Jacob to laugh.

Edward scowled. "I'm not going to continue if she's going to take the piss. Especially if I can't understand what she's taking the piss out of."

Jacob, still laughing, explained, "She made a pretty educated guess at which emotion you're experiencing currently."

"Ha ha," Edward replied sarcastically. "You're real funny. Why don't you go next, hotshot?"

I shrugged. "My name is Bella Swan and I have selective mutism. Most associate the cause with my mother's death, but I have no idea."

Once Jacob had finished signing, Edward asked, "What happened to your mother?"

I didn't need to sign the response as Alice quickly replied, "She was murdered."

The room fell silent, so that I could clearly make out the ticking of the clock which hung high on the opposite wall. With an extreme amount of anxiety, I watched the hand tick round until an entire minute had passed. Finally, I lowered my gaze.

"Murdered?" Edward echoed and I involuntarily flinched. "Jesus, that's gotta fuck someone up."

Vanessa quickly signed, with Jacob translating, "Actually, it wasn't her death which set it off."

Dr. Reed leaned forwards, grabbing her pen and clipboard as she began taking notes. "And why do you think that when everyone else seems to think it is the cause?"

"She was slowly refusing to speak at school a few months before her mother died."

When she looked my way, I nodded as confirmation. That much I could remember.

"Bella, why hasn't your father mentioned this?"

"I guess he, like most of my past therapists, thinks I wasn't showing symptoms back then, but rather grew shy because we'd just moved house."

"This could be quite important," Dr. Reed replied with a frown on her features. "If you were showing signs of mutism before your mother's death, then we can begin rolling new theories as to why you stopped talking." Pausing to chew on her pen cap, she added, "Bella, do you remember anything else happening before then? A trauma perhaps?"

I shook my head.

"OK, what about something small. Anything that might link with your mouth?"

I tried to think back, but my mind drew a blank. I shook my head.

"An injury, perhaps? Maybe you cut your mouth on something sharp, or chipped your teeth."

I sat there silently, trying desperately to remember. I'd had many injuries as a child, after all, I was pretty clumsy, but I would have remembered any injury to my mouth purely for it being an unusual place to injure oneself. After a few minutes, I finally shook my head with a sigh.

"That's OK, Bella," Dr. Reed soothed as she finished scribbling down notes. "You're unfortunate in that your mutism hasn't been cured at an early stage. It means that once you know why you have this condition, it'll still be hard to break it because its become a feature of you for the last seven or eight years. However, you are fortunate in that you'll have a lot more support than you might have had as a young child. We're all here for you."

Edward snorted. "Why does she get special treatment? I'm fucking bipolar. That's a heck of a lot worse."

Dr. Reed narrowed her eyes, tapping her pen against the clipboard in an aggravated manner. "Please, Edward. I'm not disregarding your own problems, or anyone else's for that matter, but people with bipolar can learn to function within normal society with the help of drugs. In Bella's case, there is no cure, but therapy."

Jasper frowned in response. "I thought mutism was partly an anxiety disorder."

She nodded. "It is, for the most part."

"There are drugs for that. Why not just dose her up, and then she'll talk?"

"It doesn't work like that in Bella's case. Judging from what her other therapists concluded, she doesn't suffer from anxiety. It may well have been the case when this all began, but now it's more of a habit which can't be broken until we discover why she's like this."

"And when you do," Alice interjected, "She'll probably have to deal with a trauma she completely forgot about."

Dr. Reed nodded with a small smile. "It's what I fear. My theory is that Bella is repressing a traumatic memory, perhaps one her parents never knew about, and it's probably this which causes her mutism."

I considered this idea. It wasn't one I'd come across in the past, mainly because everyone was so sure my mother's death was the cause of my problems, but as I delved into the idea, it seemed more and more likely. Obviously, there had to be some event which triggered it all because I'd always functioned fine before. And whenever I tried to remember, my mind was always empty, as though a memory was missing. Although this could easily be put down to being young and unable to retain memories as well.

The bell rung, sounding the end of our session and my thoughts. Much like class, everyone was quick to stand up and sling on their bags before making their way to the door.

"Hey, wait," Dr. Reed called as Emmett put his hand on the metal handle. "You guys are being set homework."

"Homework?" Emmett raised a brow incredulous. "You're giving us homework? This is damn therapy, not my psychology class."

Rolling her eyes, Dr. Reed said, "I want you guys to pair up and share an event where your condition has caused you embarrassment."

"You want to humiliate us?" Edward asked.

"No, I want you all to learn that although your conditions might differ, you're all in this together. You have a lot in common and this exercise will help you realise this." She shot Edward a pointed look. "And before you try it, no meeting up with friends. In fact, I'll pair you up now. Emmett and Alice, Rosalie and Jacob, Vanessa and Jasper and Edward and Bella."

And with that, everyone left the room. All except myself, Dr. Reed and Edward.

"You want me to work with...her." He screwed up his nose in distaste. "Are you on crack or something?"

"Please Edward; this will be good for you both."

"She's fucking mental," he replied and I flinched visibly.

"Edward!" Dr. Reed scolded.

"And there's a second problem," Edward continued, "How am I supposed to know what she's saying?"

Dr. Reed froze, mirroring my own action. The thought had never occurred to me, my disappointment at having been paired with Edward taking over. How exactly would I talk to him if he couldn't understand me?

"How about Bella writes it down?"

I shrugged, pretending to examine my bitten nails.

"I suppose, but it's less embarrassing on her part. She has to sit there though and watch me read about it, otherwise it's unfair."

"Sure, sure," Dr. Reed replied absently, waving her hands in the air.

An idea popped into my head, and wasting no time, I quickly grabbed the pen from the coffee table and snatched the clipboard from Dr. Reed. My handwriting quick, rough and near-unreadable, I wrote, "Perhaps Jacob and I could teach some basic sign language? Nothing major, just basic things like 'who', 'what', 'where' and 'how', that sort of stuff, so I don't have to rely on a translator permanently. It'll help Vanessa too."

Dr. Reed's eyes scanned over my scrawl, and then her brows drew together in concentration. "Is it difficult to learn?"

I shook my head. Tapping 'who', I quickly signed it. When she imitated it without much flaw, I grinned and held my hands upright as if to say, see?

"Alright, we'll sort something out next time." Grabbing her own handbag, she put it onto her shoulder and regarded us both. "I'm serious you two. If you don't do the homework, I'll contact your parents Edward and you, Bella, won't be helping yourself. You want to get better, right?"

I felt a little annoyed that it was viewed that I actually needed to get better. I could function in society as much as Vanessa could, perhaps more so as I still had function of my hearing, and yet it was as though I chose to be this way. I didn't want to be dysfunctional, I mean, who did? Of course, it was useless voicing (or perhaps, signing) these thoughts so I merely nodded, averting my gaze.

"Good," Dr. Reed replied and glancing up, I caught her warm smile.

Then I shifted my gaze. The speculative stare of Edward's emerald eyes had my body tensing. As though he didn't quite believe what I was communicating. Then he blinked and it was gone, leaving me to question whether I had seen anything at all.

His face was stony as he headed towards the door. At the last minute, he glanced over his shoulder at me, his eyes carefully blank. "Find me tomorrow." Then he was gone.

Shaking my head, I followed his exit at a much slower pace. I wasn't sure what it was about Edward, but something made me feel uneasy.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, thank you for your reviews. I'd have liked a bigger response, but I'm happy all the same. To clear everything up, the prologue was in Bella's perspective, after all, she mentions that her father is Charlie and that her father works in a police station. I know one or two people assumed it was Reneesme, instead. I have decided to call Reneesme Vanessa in this story, simply because it'd be strange for her to share a name with her Aunty and Edward's mother. Right? Anyway, I prefer the name Vanessa.

As you can see, the main characters are all here, and there'll be more. Soon enough we'll be introduced to James, Tanya, Victoria, Laurent and many more, however they'll be simply side characters without much action. This story will be mostly about Edward and Bella however, the side plotlines of our other characters will be present.

Long note, but it needs to be said. Lastly, please review this story. The reviews I'm receiving love it so far, but many people who have put me onto their alerts have yet to review. If there's something you don't like, tell me. :)