A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I just make the characters do sick, twisted things.



Chapter 1

The Present

I awoke to the western sun slanting through the window. Scowling, I rolled over on the futon, hiding my face in the crack between the wall and the covers. This new schedule was taking some getting used to; I wasn't accustomed to sleeping away the entire day. There was something seedy and desperate about being a day-sleeper. I laughed humorlessly; I was seedy and desperate, after all.

I yawned and stretched and walked through the small apartment into the four-square-foot kitchen, turned on the coffee maker and combed my fingers through my long, tangled dark hair. I thought again for the hundredth time how the word "efficiency" did not nearly describe the small space I'd been living in for the past three months. Living my seedy, desperate life. Running away from everything and everyone. Hiding from those who would hurt me, even kill me.

I shook my head, willing the thoughts away. Walking towards the bathroom, I grabbed the remote and turned on the television.

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By seven o'clock I was on my way to work, radio blaring over the loud truck engine. At a stoplight I lit my first cigarette of the day and rummaged through my bag for another CD. I breathed deeply, already surprised at how quickly I'd taken to smoking. Most of the girls at work smoked, and one day after a couple of drinks and a desire to impress my manager, I bummed a cigarette. I'd done OK with that first one; I'd lit the correct end and hadn't choked on my first drag. I smiled to myself as I remembered seeing a drunk sorority girl light the wrong end of a Marlboro in the off-campus bar where I worked. Every time I saw the girl in my Econ class with her entourage of rich, coiffed BFFs, I pictured her waving around the blackened filter, spitting out bits of tobacco and smiled.

Now I was a pro. At smoking, at running away.

The light changed. I put the truck into first and gunned it. I smiled ruefully as the truck lurched forward; no one would ever want this truck for anything. It barely got 10 miles to the gallon, and didn't quite get up to sixty on the expressway. Still, it was one of the few things I owned, a gift from Charlie. Back when life was normal.

How had I fallen so far so fast? Everything was fine in Forks, Washington. I'd graduated from high school with good grades and a partial scholarship to Dartmouth College, of all places. Charlie had been thrilled to have Ivy League Material for a daughter, and wasted no time in sharing the good news with the entire town. Renee had been just as excited and even offered to sell the house in Phoenix to help with the tuition. Phil had been offered a contract with the Houston Astros farm team, and they were living in a condo outside of the city. I suspected that Renee was only hanging on to the house for my benefit, but I wasn't exactly sure why.

I shook my head at the memory. There would have been no earthly way to swing Dartmouth, and Mike had been adamant about us both going to Peninsula.


I cringed.

Mike Newton. The all-around nice guy from a good family, who practically courted Charlie before trying to date me. He went fishing with Charlie a few times a month, and finally convinced me to date him during our senior year of high school. After a year of dogging me at every turn, not to mention having Charlie driving me nuts about what a "nice boy that Newton kid is," I had acquiesced and agreed to go out with him. Once. There was no turning back after that. He'd started picking me up for school every day, following me around town, even shadowed me when I went to Port Angeles a few times with Angela for a girl's day out. A few times I even had the distinct feeling that he had been in my house when I wasn't there… but I shrugged it off as an overreaction. Part of me thought that some of his actions seemed strange, but a bigger part of me was happy to have the attention and the diversion of an attentive boyfriend.

Mike had always seemed a bit insecure, but that insecurity went through the roof when he found out I'd been accepted to Dartmouth. He accused me of running away, of leading him on, of not taking our relationship seriously, of putting myself above everyone else around me. When he brought up how expensive it would be, and what a financial burden I would be for my parents, I acquiesced quickly, not wanting to create problems. I enrolled at Peninsula.

Mike had decided that since we were both going to Peninsula, we needed to live in Port Angeles instead of commuting from home. He wouldn't even consider living in the dorms, and insisted that we get an apartment together, and I'd needed to find a part-time job in addition to a full load of classes my first semester. Mike had decided that he couldn't work and go to school at the same time, so the brunt of the responsibility had fallen to me to pay rent and living expenses. I'd seen him have a few beers here and there, mostly when we went to First Beach at La Push with other kids from school. But nothing prepared me for the raging drunk Mike became once exposed to campus life. It mortified me to remember how he'd smacked me around a few times (always apologizing afterwards), and I'd found more than a few new phone numbers in his cell phone. I knew better than to approach him about it, as he'd either get mad at me for snooping (most likely), get defensive (very likely) or claim that they were the numbers of English tutors (only likely if he was drunk). Regardless, I would be in for a very bad evening. It was usually better to leave it alone. And since my name was on the apartment lease, I couldn't very well leave without losing a lot of money.

Until the day I'd come home from work early and found him in bed with one of his English tutors. I'd stood in the bedroom doorway, too shocked to speak, while English Tutor had gathered her clothes, giggling nervously. Mike had lain back in the bed – our bed – and lit a cigarette, acting as if nothing had happened.

I'd been wooden, incapable of movement, the shock and surprise too much for my system to process. I'd finally walked into the living room and sat down on the floor, not even looking up when English Tutor closed the front door behind her with a soft click. This was the man to whom I'd given two years of my life; given up my dreams, my freedom, my virginity. At the thought my stomach lurched. I scrambled to my feet, barely making it to the toilet.

Afterward I wiped my mouth, splashed my face with cool water, and picked up my toothbrush.

It was wet. English Tutor must have borrowed it.

I dropped it into the garbage can and began to cry.

Three months later, I was living on my own for the first time in my life, a small apartment I'd procured with a little help from Renee and the belongings I'd managed to stuff into my truck one night while Mike was passed out, sneaking back into the bedroom one last time to grab the laptop Charlie had given me as a graduation present. Some things were just more important than a security deposit.

I'd crossed into northern California and stopped when I came to a town called New Journey, in need of gas and food and human interaction. The very name of the town seemed significant, so I stayed. I'd called Renee to let her know where I was, and despite her obvious shock, she didn't ask as many questions as I expected. I told her that I was having an attack of needing to be on my own for a while, and asked her to call Charlie for me. I figured that Charlie would hunt Mike down and kill him if he knew what had really transpired. Besides, he'd be embarrassed that his judgment of Mike was so far off, and so I steered clear of having that particular conversation with him.

I started slightly as I pulled into the parking lot. I'd been on autopilot the entire way here, lost in the fresh memories. I cut the engine, grabbed my bag and locked the truck.

A tall, well-muscled, dark-skinned security guard stepped out of the doorway on a side of the building and walked towards me. I smiled and waved. "Hello, Laurent."

He smiled back, eyes scanning the lot behind me.

"Hello, Bella."

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A/N: To my knowledge, there is no town in northern California called New Journey. Purely a figment of my strange and overactive imagination. Please excuse the first few chapters, as there is a lot of back story that needs to be introduced. Thanks for reading, please consider reviewing!

Special thanks to AzureEyedI for the clarification on Houston's baseball team. I love sharp-eyed reviewers! ;)

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