AN: So, is this a surprise? Yes, I'm starting another story. And I swear on my iPod that I WILL finish this!
In this chapter (and most likely the next), Bella is a young child and is abused but then gets adopted by the Cullens. Have fun reading this!
The packet weighed down my hand as I forced myself to place one foot in front of the other, to make my way back to my home, step by heavy step.
Grades. The terrible, awful, despised G word. Grades.
I drew my sweater around me firmly, and zipped it up. It was unusually cold for November. Leaves blustered around me in swirls, the ever-present cloud cover blocking out any warmth the sun might have offered.
My only hope was that Charlie wasn't home yet, and that I wouldn't have to deal with his wrath; it was a foolish hope, though, I had to admit. When was the last time he'd been absent when I arrived home from school? A while ago.
I suppose the blame of my impending demise could be pinned on Ms. Hayes, my teacher, who'd handed me my report card. A young teacher, impatient and snappish, teaching a group of children—second graders—simply wasn't a good idea. And as I was the kind of child who was slow to respond, slow to act, quick to think but slow to follow orders, I was the kind she'd despised.
Oh, I knew I was intelligent beyond my age. And when the time came, I knew I'd apply my intellect. But right now, I was in second grade. I learned big words from books out of the teen section. I knew lots of things. I knew how plants grow, I knew the names of all the countries involved in World War Two, and I knew how babies were made. Oh yes, I knew plenty.
Ms. Hayes didn't understand. According to her, I was a child who repeatedly disobeyed orders, was slow in the head, and needed to be tested for ADHD or possibly dyslexia. All of which she considered to be defects in a young child.
And hence, my terrible marks.
First quarter of the school year, and I was already doomed.
When the quaint, old house, paint slowly weathered to a shade of gray, came into sight, it was all I could do not to rip the papers in my hands and bury them at the base of the tree right here, right now.
Perhaps Charlie wouldn't notice! In his stupor, perhaps he'd have forgotten today was Grades Day; he may be drinking himself into a coma! My face turned up into a faint smile at the thought, then chastised myself for wishing that on my own father (albeit a drunkard, but my father nonetheless).
Step. Shuffle. Step. Shuffle. I made my way up the stairs, eyeing the door with apprehension. Pulling one strap of my purple Hello Kitty backpack down, I unzipped the big pocket and slid the folder in.
Click-click-click-click. The teeth of the zipper closed with an almost deafening sound.
I pressed the doorbell, and was greeted by heavy, thudding footsteps.
The door was flung open and my father, Charlie, looked like a madman. His eyes were bloodshot, he reeked of beer, and he had a bottle in one hand.
I bit my lip hard. "Hi, Dad" was the only thing I was able to say. This was the first time in two weeks I'd seen him so drunk.
He held his other hand out, kicking the door shut with his other foot. "Report card," he demanded. "Now!"
Oh, no, darn it, oh no…even in his present condition, he remembered.
I could do nothing as my hands acted of their own accord, unzipping my backpack, holding the marked papers out to him.
He yanked them from me unceremoniously, and proceeded to skim through the pages, sipping his beer.
I knew I was in big trouble when his hand began to shake and crinkles formed in the paper of the packet, right where his fingers pinched the pages.
He flung the papers toward me, and I held my hands up to protect my face from a potential paper-cut. "Would you like to explainto me how there's a D on your report card, young lady? Hmm?"
"I want an answer!"
"Ms. Hayes doesn't like me!" I defended myself. "She thinks I'm stupid and she just doesn't like me so she gives me bad grades!" I crossed my arms, an act of defiance. "It's not my fault!"
We were still standing by the door. Charlie was leaning against the stair banister, his beer bottle trembling against the wood. "Maybe it's true,then! Make yourself more likable. Make her like you. Make yourself smarter. I can't have such a disgrace to my name! These kinds of grades are not acceptable in the Swan family!"
I was the disgrace? Excuse me?!
"You'd better get your game up," he warned me. "I don't want to see these grades ever again, you hear me?" The words were delivered in a roar of noise pollution and alcohol. He emphasized his statement by slamming his beer bottle against the railing, where it promptly smashed and leaked in a frothy torrent onto the carpeted stairs.
Charlie glanced at the smashed bottle in his hand. Before I could react at all, he had flung it at me. At my head.
It struck its target, and I went down.
*** *** ***
Charlie Swan stomped out of the house in a daze. He wasn't sure at all what he was doing as he stepped into his cruiser and backed out at an alarming speed. His foot slammed on the gas as he drove wildly, tumbling this way and that, through the small neighborhood and onto the highway.
Ah, the highway.
A few daring drivers beeped at him when he wove in and out of lanes, but he just flipped them the finger. Reaching over, he turned on his lights and the siren, and sped past everyone else.
Finally, he thought. No more distractions, no more people, and certainly no more interference from that worthless daughter of min—
That was his last thought.
Worthless daughter of min—
Several minutes later, another officer came to the crash scene. He winced internally as he surveyed the crash scene. The driver's side of the car was completely destroyed when it swerved and turned a complete one-eighty off the road. The lights were still flashing, the siren still wailing.
"Hello?" he called, loudly, though he was sure no soul could possibly be alive under the wreckage. He donned his thick gloves and rummaged through the torn metal and shattered glass.
His hand grasped a clump of dark brown hair, and he shuddered.
Far away, the sirens of the arriving ambulance wailed, increasing steadily in volume.
The officer withdrew his hand, brushed it on his pants, and shoved it into his pocket. He stared with revulsion at the tuft of hair sticking out amongst the glass. The air bag was out, but punctured.
The ambulance stopped in front of him and he silently moved out of the way. Three people, two men and a woman, hopped out and cleared the rubbish away from the body in no time. They held up the head of the corpse, and the officer was met with the torn, bruised and bloodied face of—
"Officer Swan?!" he exclaimed.
"Dead," the woman said shortly.
Now that he knew who the victim of the crash was, the officer drew nearer. He was still a foot or two from Charlie Swan's face when he smelled—
"Booze," he said. "Send him over to the hospital and test his blood alcohol."
One of the paramedics had ran back into the ambulance and pulled out a stretcher. The two other placed the body on the stretcher and wheeled it back into the ambulance. They drove off.
The officer sighed as he climbed back into his own cruiser. He would call for a tow truck to dispose of the remnants of the car.
What a shame, he thought. This is what the police force in Forks has come to.
Charlie Swan went to hell after his death. Hell was a place he had no belief in…until he arrived there.
All day and all night, as he was burned by flames that pained but did not kill him, he was tortured by the tantalizing aroma of beer…wine…thirty-year-old scotch…open bottles floating right above him, just out of his reach.
Such was God's punishment for this particular alcoholic.
Back on earth, in the country called the United States of America, in a small town named Forks, located on the Olympic Peninsula of the state of Washington, a young girl was bleeding, unconscious, beside her own closed door.
A boy named Edward Cullen and two of his siblings, Jasper Hale and Alice Cullen, all with false identities to blend in, happened to drive past that particular street—yes, the street where the girl was bleeding.
Those three juniors, in high school, weren't really kids.
Aberrations, if you will. Mutants, perhaps. Whatever they were labeled as, only one thing was certain; they weren't normal.
Not normal at all.
Which is why the Edward Cullen, the driver, leaped out of the car as soon as he smelt the blood.
Oh, the blood.
Nectar for the living dead.
The car was still crawling along, and Jasper Hale reached over to yank the key out of the ignition. The car stopped, in the middle of the road. Then, he and Alice Cullen followed their brother Edward into the house.
*** *** ***
The fresh, innocent blood was torturing me. It ignited a torch in my throat, a torch I haven't felt for years.
I couldn't get into the house fast enough. I am uncertain if I acknowledged the door or not; I only knew that one second I was sprinting across the lawn, and the next, the door was behind me, laying in splinters.
I saw the child.
She was young; six or seven, I guessed, by her looks. Her dark, wavy hair was stained by blood, and the smell of alcohol reeked in the house. A few shards of brown glass lay in a pool of the revolting liquid called beer.
The stink didn't matter; the blood did.
All these years, I have repressed who—and what—I truly am. A monster, feeding off of blood. A parasite. A vampire, yes, a vampire.
I bent my lips to the child's scalp, licking the blood away. My tongue danced; my throat sang. Never had human blood been as delicious as this.
Her heart still beat, I knew that. Shallow, quiet breaths escaped her. I licked the blood out, drop by drop, wanting to savor the taste.
Pressing my cold lips to a gash on her forehead, I began to suck. The blood flowed freely, and I flicked my tongue along the wound, not wanting a single drop to escape.
A figure barreled into me from the direction of the door.
I looked up, annoyed, to be met with Alice's fierce stare. Idiot, idiot, idiot! She thought at me. Look at the kid! She's, what, seven? And you were sucking the blood out of her!
I glared at her. "Alice, let me—"
"You're not going anywhere," she scolded. He prides himself on drinking the blood of criminals, she thought grumpily. And he attacks a little kid.
"Hey," I said. "I don't drink from criminals anymore. You know it's only animals for—"
"Yeah, yeah. You weren't just drinking from a girl. A little girl. A seven-year-old. I'm totally convinced."
"Would you stop interr—"
Jasper had arrived and was silently picking the kid up. Only then did I realize that I'd heard nothing.
Unconscious humans' minds are often the most annoying; they can remember nothing, they say, but their minds blur with color, sounds, and things, until it becomes one screaming ball of confusion.
It somehow always evades their memory, I thought grimly.
But there was nothing.
"Alice, I can't—"
"Hear her. Yeah, I figured as much."
She glanced at me, and then sent me a vision.
The girl survives. When she speaks to our family tonight, I listen raptly and my face holds curiosity and genuine interest, because I have no idea what she is going to say next, or what she wants to say.
"That's…." I barely spluttered that out. I'd never been caught so speechless before. "No. There's some mistake. She can't hide her mind from me! It does not happen. Does not exist!"
She was quiet for a minute. How would you know?
How would I know?
…well, I don't.
My reply was interrupted by an unsteady, dangerous power surging through Jasper's mind. He had taken a small breath, just a whiff, accidentally, and being the newest vegetarian, he found himself in a position very much like mine when I'd smelt the blood.
Alice sighed and had Bella away from Jasper in an instant. I fought the urge to leap forward, to breathe. The warm heat, the beautiful perfume of her blood was eating at my skin now; the icy layer tingled, as if wanting nothing more than to leap forward and end her heartbeats.
"Since you boys are just such outstanding models of vegetarianism," Alice spat at us, "I am going to drive her back to Carlisle, and you two can take a nice long run out, and contemplate your actions."
Jasper stayed silent, though his fists were still clenched tightly.
"Yes, Mom," I mumbled.
Alice glared at me. We'll talk later, she told me. And then she was gone, tearing away from us.
I sighed. "Yes, she's right about one thing, though…we should go run. Maybe hunt a little."
And we headed out, away from the aromatic house, and into the woods at top speed, invisible in our haste.
*** *** ***
A white ceiling.
Voices beside me, muttering.
Where am I?
"Oh, you're awake, dear!" a distinctly feminine voice exclaimed, close to my ear. I tilted my head to see a woman, mid-twenties, perhaps, smiling at me. Her hair fell in caramel waves, and her eyes were gold.
I felt light-headed, and the woman patted my hand. "It's okay, dear, Carlisle sewed up that nasty gash on your head. It looked pretty awful, but now it's good as new!"
Her skin was cold…poor circulation, maybe….
"Good, she's awake," a man's voice said. I tilted my head, and saw a doctor walking toward me with a small flashlight in hand. He came over to me with a friendly smile, and I saw those same strange eyes on him.
"Open your eyes wide, please," he said, and aimed the flashlight's beam into my eye. I fought the urge to squint, and he moved to the other eye briefly. "Good. You seem to be recovering well."
My arm twitched, and I immediately realized that I was not on a stretcher or a hospital bed. It was too comfortable.
"Where am I? It doesn't feel like a hospital," I muttered.
"Oh, sweetie," the lady said. "You're in our house. I'm Esme Cullen, dear. Carlisle is my husband, and he's a doctor. I'll call in two of our kids. Emmett! Rose! Alice!"
I heard footsteps, and a dark-haired boy and girl came through the door. The boy was very tall, and looked huge. Like a bear. He probably played sports a lot. The girl was, by contrast, tiny.
The boy smiled. "Hey! You're up! I'm Emme—"
"Emmett," the doctor—Dr. Cullen, I should call him—hissed reprovingly. "Not the best idea, considering her condition."
The boy froze, his arms in the air. My brain registered that he'd been trying to hug me, but I just felt woozy and couldn't care less. I closed my eyes.
"Aw," a high-pitched voice said. "You wore her out, Emmett!" I sensed a shadow cross over me, and I opened one eye. The black-haired girl was hovering over me, a brilliant, toothy smile on her face. "I'm Alice!" she said happily. "Rosalie's in the garage, sulking. Don't mind her, all right?"
I just nodded.
"What's your name?"
I used my arm to push myself up into a sitting position. "Bella. Isabella Swan," I muttered.
"Swan?" I heard Dr. Cullen say, before he mumbled something incomprehensible. I might've been mistaken, but I thought I saw Emmett nod, out of the corner of my eye.
"Come on," Alice said cheerfully. "You have to be hungry. Or thirsty. Do you think you can walk?"
"I…I think," I said, without confidence.
Esme, having remained by my side quietly throughout the whole conversation, spoke up. "Be careful, Alice," she warned.
"Oh, I will," Alice promised.
I scooted off the bed and tried to stand. A rush of dizziness engulfed me and I felt myself stumble.
"It's just vertigo," Alice said.
Emmett came over and picked me up. "Alice, really? You think you can lead her down the stairs? You're barely taller than she is!" he joked.
I decided that I liked Emmett. He held me against his chest and I buried my face into his sweater. He strode down the flight of stairs, holding me securely. The rest of them remained upstairs.
"Don't you worry about a thing," Emmett whispered in my ear. "You didn't even have to go to the hospital! Isn't that cool? Our dad's a doctor. He stitched you up as soon as Alice brought you in."
"Alice? But how did she find me? I was in my house!"
"Ah, that's something you'll have to ask Alice," he said, grinning. "I'm not exactly sure."
"And wait, Dr. Cullen's your dad? But he's really young!"
Emmett laughed. "Just call him Carlisle. And he and Esme—that's the lady who talked to you first—they adopted us. Carlisle and Esme were married and decided they wanted a bunch of us around."
He carried me over to their dining-room table, and sat me in one of the chairs. "Let's see…" he said, peering into the refrigerator. "We have some pop here, if you want it…Sprite and Mountain Dew. I can make you a sandwich if you want, or there's some frozen pizza. Your choice."
"Pizza, please. And I just want water."
"Coming right up."
I made myself comfortable in the cushioned dining-room chair. Emmett rejoined me after I heard him put the pizza in the oven.
"Hey, do you know who did this to you?" Emmett asked, pointing at my forehead.
"My dad did. He was drunk," I said, before I fully registered what I'd just said. I slapped my hand over my mouth, keeping myself silent.
"Your dad," Emmett seethed, his expression suddenly angry, before it turned back into a smile. "And is your dad Charlie Swan, by any chance? I just heard that you're Bella Swan."
I nodded. "He went raving mad when I got home," I mumbled. "And I bet he still thinks I need to be tested for ADHD or some other mental 'deficiency', he calls it."
"Your dad's dead."
Those words were delivered in a flat tone of voice, and I looked up to see Emmett avoiding my gaze.
Your…my. Dad…my dad's Charlie. Dead…
"Charlie's dead?!" I screeched in horror. That couldn't be. One minute he threw the beer bottle at me, and the next….Well, I actually didn't know what he did.
"Rosalie—my, um, my sister—she went down to the police station. She learned that Charlie Swan was killed when he crashed into a tree by the highway. He was drunk."
"Oh," I murmured.
He was still watching me oddly. "What?" I finally snapped.
"Nothing…it's just that…aren't you going to…."
"What? Cry? I suppose a good, dutiful daughter would be crying herself silly at this point, but to be honest, I can't really care about Charlie," I snapped. "He's drunk all the time and he makes me feel awful. And my mom died, too, so I guess I…I…I don't have anywhere to go. But anything's better than seeing Charlie again! I mean, he gave me this!" I jabbed a finger at the bandage on my forehead.
Emmett looked away again, and I immediately regretted my rude words. "Sorry about that."
He smiled. "How old are you again? Seven? Eight?"
"Yes," I said. "Why?"
"Because you throw around some words that most seven-year-olds don't know. You're pretty smart," he complimented me.
"Um…thanks," I said lamely.
The timer beeped, and Emmett rose to retrieve the pizza from the oven. It looked tantalizing—I think that means delicious; I haven't checked the dictionary yet—with browned cheese at the edges and pepperoni and sausages and onions and so many other delicious things in the melted cheese. He handed me a cup of water.
"Dig in," he said.
I was gobbling up the slice of pizza like a child who had gone without food for a week when the door opened and two other boys stepped in. Men? I couldn't tell how old they were. They both stopped and stared at me.
Another door opened, somewhere else in the house, and a beautiful girl stepped in. She was tall, and had shining, golden hair. She looked at me with an expression that made me lower my eyes uncomfortably. The expression held a mixture of wonder, hate, and plain distaste.
I switched my gaze back to the two boys, who looked like they'd just rolled around in a mud pile. They looked at me strangely. One of the boys had curly-ish, wavy-ish blond hair—I guessed that he and the girl who'd just walked in were related, maybe. His features were sharp and square, but there was a sort of calm on his face. The other boy had strangely-colored hair. Copper? No. Mahogany? Nah. Bronze…perhaps. His face looked almost like a girl's, with long eyelashes and pinkish lips.
The bronze-haired boy was the one who looked at me with something like rage in his stare.
Had I offended him some way? No, I'd never even seen him before. He must be looking at the pizza in my hands. He must not like it. And I must be cruising down the River Denial. Of course he was staring at me!
I didn't want to look at him either, so I just looked down at my plate.
Emmett cleared his throat, probably having detected the tension in the room. "Okay! Well, Bella, this is Rosalie, my girlfriend, and these two are Edward and Jasper," he said, grinning, pointing to the tall girl, and then the bronze-haired boy, and then the blond boy.
"Didn't you say Rosalie was your sister?" I asked.
I heard a quiet laugh and turned. The blond-haired boy—Jasper—could barely conceal his amused smile.
"Er…well…." Emmett said awkwardly. "Technically, since we're adopted, we're not blood relatives, so we can be in relationships. The law says we're siblings, but we don't have to be just that. Alice and Jasper are together, too."
"Use some simpler words," Jasper suggested, still speaking quietly. "I think you're confusing her."
"No, I can understand," I said. "So you're all…adopted? All of you? Are there any more?" I asked.
"We're all adopted," Emmett replied. "But there isn't anyone else left. This is the whole family, Bella."
I was hungry, but didn't feel like eating, with four pairs of eyes concentrated on me. I looked up again, and realized one thing.
All of the members of this adopted family were very pretty. And all of them had strangely-colored eyes. Gold, amber, pure black…I'd never seen those colors for eyes before.
"Is Doc—er, I mean Carlisle—is he a plastic surgeon?" I felt like I was asking too many questions. Then again, I guess I was entitled to ask them.
"No," Emmett answered. I realized that Emmett was the only one talking to me, since the others seemed to take an immediate dislike to me. "Why?"
"Well, all of you guys are really pretty and—"
I was interrupted by more laughter. This time, the other guy, Edward, joined in, too. Even Rosalie, who seemed icy and full of hate, cracked a smile.
I guess this family—the Cullens—weren't so bad, after all.
AN: Did it suck? I hope not, but tell me if it was the worst piece of crap you ever read, okay? Thank you. That will be greatly appreciated.