Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 1: Trapped in the Past
Like every other night, she was awakened by her own screaming. It would take hours to fall asleep, only to have the nightmare wake her up again. The screaming always made her throat burn, and, like every other night, she went to the bathroom for a cool glass of water. Her father, having grown accustomed to the nightly ritual, didn't leave his own bed, although she was sure he was alert and listening.
She shuffled the few feet between the rooms, barely having the energy to pick her feet up off the floor. With almost robotic precision, she picked up the water glass, turned on the faucet, and filled the glass with just enough water to sooth the burning. A brief flicker of moonlight shot across the mirror above the sink, and she instinctively turned her head to follow it.
For the first time in months, she looked, really looked at herself in the mirror. She was pale and her face gaunt. Her clothes, hanging off her, were disordered and wrinkled. Her long hair was wild. She couldn't remember if she'd even eaten all day.
Did I actually go to school looking like this?
Ever since He left her in the woods, she'd been in a thick fog. If she thought about Him too long, the ragged hole in her chest began to hurt. She found that clearing her mind and her emotions numbed the pain. She could do that for a few weeks, couldn't she? Only the weeks had become months.
Looking at herself now, she realized that she was tired of the hole, tired of hurting. She clenched the glass in her hand.
She threw the glass at her reflection, and it shattered loudly into a million pieces, raining glass and water all over the bathroom floor. She knew there was no way Charlie wouldn't have heard that.
"Bella! Bella! Are you alright?" Charlie yelled as he ran into the bathroom.
She tiptoed around the glass and walked into the hallway. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I just dropped the damn glass."
"Dropped?" Charlie sighed as he saw the webbed cracks in the mirror. "It looks like you threw it to me. What in the world is going on?"
"I just didn't want to look at myself anymore."
"Bella, I know this has been a hard time for you, but I don't think I can watch you walk around this house like a zombie anymore. It's no good for you, and it's breaking my heart." Bella could see tears welling up in Charlie's eyes, and his usually squared shoulders sagged in defeat.
My God, what have I done to him?
She walked into her room and sat on her bed, motioning Charlie to sit beside her. "I'm so sorry, Dad. I just…I don't know…"
He sat down and took her hand gently between his. She noticed how small her hand looked wrapped in his warm, rough fingers, and she remembered feeling so safe when he held her hand as a child. She once again regretted all she'd missed those years living in Phoenix with her mother, and it made the realization of Charlie's pain more acute.
Charlie hesitated then spoke quickly. "I've talked to Renee, and she and Phil would be glad to have you in Jacksonville with them. I think getting out of this town is just what you need, Bells."
"I want to leave. I want to be anywhere but here, Dad. But I don't want to go anywhere without you."
Charlie's eyes widened in surprise. "You'll leave, then, if I go with you?"
"I know it's a lot to ask…"
"No, Bells," Charlie said, pulling Bella into his arms and giving her the first hug she could remember in years. "I'll do anything for you to be happy again. Anything."
Relief washed over her, and the hole in her chest throbbed a little less. As much as she tried, she couldn't stop the sobs that shook her entire body. Charlie lovingly cradled her in his arms, smoothing her hair as he stroked the back of her head.
"Oh, Dad, thank you so much! I'm so ready to be away from here."
The sooner the better.
With his long, distinguished service, Charlie had little trouble finding a job as police chief of a small city in Alabama. Bella had never heard of Guntersville before, but a quick Google search revealed it was twice the size of Forks and much warmer. The sunny days vastly outnumbered the cloudy, and it was on the banks of the Tennessee River.
Since she was a senior and it was so late in the school year, Charlie reluctantly agreed that Bella would not return to high school after the move. Instead, she planned to take her GED as soon as they were settled and work as an administrative assistant at the police station until she decided what to do about college. She didn't tell Charlie that she didn't have the slightest interest in college anymore. He had enough worry on his plate for now.
Renee was disappointed that Bella wasn't moving to Jacksonville, but she was happy that at least Alabama wasn't a continent away from Florida. There were even some minor league baseball teams there, and she knew Phil could find a job with one of them. Bella wasn't sure having everyone in the same state was a great idea, but she kept that thought to herself.
A few times during her packing, He would pop into her mind, but Bella pushed those thoughts away by keeping busy. He took her photographs and the CD of her lullaby, but the plane tickets from Carlisle and Esme and the car stereo from the others were still in the floor of her closet. Those things and anything else that reminded her of Him went into a box, and she planned to burn the entire lot in the back yard. Unfortunately, when she went to get the box her last night in the house, it was gone.
Damn it, Charlie! I better not find that in my new room!
As Charlie lifted the last box into the moving van, Bella looked back on the empty house. There were many memories living in that house, and, as far as she was concerned, they could stay there.
"Charlie, I need to do one more thing before we leave."
Charlie slammed the van's gate shut. "Sure, Bells. I'm just going to chain up your truck to the trailer hitch."
Bella walked slowly through the door and into the bare house, and her footsteps echoed through the empty rooms. She looked at the bare living room wall where the flat screen once hung. Charlie had given the television to Billy Black, who was speechless for probably the first time in his life. Jacob helped Charlie hang the TV in the small reservation house, and the guys watched one last baseball game together. Remembering how Jacob's warm eyes had stared at her the entire night made Bella blush.
Climbing the stairs, she stopped in her bedroom doorway. The bed she'd shared so many nights with Him was still in the middle of the room. Even though he was willing to buy her anything, it was the only piece of furniture she asked Charlie to replace. She extended her arm to run her hand across the mattress but snapped it back like the bed was on fire before she even touched it.
The bathroom seemed strange without Bella's and Charlie's things fighting for shelf space. Charlie replaced the broken mirror for the young family that bought the house, and, taking a long look at herself, she was happy to see the color had returned to her face. From her back pocket, she pulled out the sharp scissors she'd used to cut the twine tied around the moving boxes.
Charlie looked over at Bella as she jumped in the van's cab, and she heard him gasp. "What did you do, Bells?"
She ran her fingers through her freshly shorn hair, hanging two inches above her shoulders. "It'll be too hot in Alabama for all that hair. This will be much better."
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Charlie shake his head as he put the van in drive and pulled away from the house. She watched as the landmarks of her time in Forks passed outside the window. The woods. The diner. The police station. The high school. As she left each one behind, the weight on her shoulders lightened, and the hole in her chest closed a little more. When they passed the city limit sign, she smiled at Charlie and sighed.
Good riddance to that God-forsaken place and everyone in it.
Leaning back, she closed her eyes to sleep a little on the long drive. Somehow, she knew this time she wouldn't wake up screaming.