Title: Blanco Como La Nieve
Author: Musings of a Shaken Mind
Rating: T
POV: Bella
Word Count: 6,527
Summary: "Thereupon she went into a quite secret, lonely room, where no one ever came, and there she made a very poisonous apple. Outside it looked pretty, white with a red cheek, so that everyone who saw it longed for it; but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die."

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Entries accepted until 8/20/09

Voting begins 8/22/09

"Thereupon she went into a quite secret, lonely room, where no one ever came, and there she made a very poisonous apple. Outside it looked pretty, white with a red cheek, so that everyone who saw it longed for it; but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die."

--Brothers Grimm "Little Snow-White

It's like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. There's some good in this world, see, and its worth fighting for.

There are years of pain, before one story can reach its conclusion. There are months that were passed over, years that are skimmed over, ignored. There are trials to conquer, tribulations to overcome. Nothing is ever as easy as a happily ever after.

My earliest memories are of my mother.

When I was a little girl, she taught me everything she knew, from language and mathematics to herb lore and horse riding. She taught me to weave and sew, and even to cook – though several cooks lived at our large house. These, she said, were skills that must be learnt. I spent much of my time with her – every waking moment, in fact. For the first twelve years of my life, she was not only my mother but a wonderful friend, too.

On my twelfth birthday, Mama fell ill from a disease that swept the kingdom, killing those it infected and halving the population of the King's lands. It was a terrible time for the Kingdom, and one I will never forget. My brothers and I were saved, as was my father, but Mama was not so lucky.

Renee Cisne was killed by the great disease six months after she contracted it, and our family was torn apart. My two elder brothers, Emmett and Jasper, were my greatest comfort when Mama died. My father, Charles Cisne, was overcome with grief and pain after the death of his wife, and resolved to find and destroy the illness which had taken her from us.

His search took him far and wide across the kingdom, far from the tiny shire my father ruled over. He was mad with grief and pain, and I am not entirely convinced that he was sound of mind, so perhaps it was best – for the shire, at least. Emmett and Jasper took over, handling affairs as if it were their duty – which perhaps it was. It kept them busy, and it stopped them from mulling over their grief for too long. The disease which had taken my mother seemed to be slowing in momentum, though it remained, targeting the very youngest and oldest in the land.

My fourteenth birthday passed, and then my fifteenth. Still, my father did not return. The burden was heavy on Jasper and Emmett's shoulders – they were just sixteen and seventeen, and too young to run even a small estate. It was unfair of him to leave them these duties.

My mother had acted as wise woman to the people of our estate, too. Before her death, she'd taught me all she knew, and I helped now, mixing together careful medicines and tinctures. They weren't much, but I knew that they helped, and I wanted to do whatever I could to aid my brothers.

I turned sixteen, the age that a girl was traditionally eligible to find a husband. Still, my father did not return from his quest.

And then, one day, there was a cry from the village to the east of our manor house. The Lord Cisne has returned!

I threw down my book and ran, half-stumbling through the halls to the front door, where I met my brothers, also out of breath. Together, we ran from the doors and out into the bright sunlight, only to find my father… and a woman. The woman, I did not recognise. She was beautiful, with porcelain skin and glossy red hair which cascaded freely down her back. My hand automatically flew to my own brown hair, which I'm sure was frizzed and dull by comparison.

My father dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to a steward who stood ready to take them, before helping the woman down. The expression in his eyes was enough to sicken my stomach. He had been absent for the past three years of our lives, and yet he had no eyes for his children. Indeed, I wondered if he even noticed us, until the flame-haired beauty brought us to his attention.

She had a voice like silk and honey, but I felt my eyes narrow. Something about her was…off. She was not who she first appeared to be. When her eyes snapped around to meet mine, I saw that they were the strangest shade of black – they seemed to have the slightest hint of red in them. I shivered slightly, and felt Emmett's large hand come to rest comfortingly on my shoulder. I knew immediately what he was thinking – we had grown so close that the slightest glance between any of the three of us revealed our innermost thoughts. Emmett didn't trust her, either.

"Charles, darling… won't you introduce your children?"

He looked startled for a moment, and turned to face us, as if noticing us for the first time. I noticed that he had grown older in his absence. The crows' feet around his eyes were now deeper and more obvious. "Ah… yes," he was vague, absent, "These are, ah, Emmett, Jasper and Isabella. Children, this is Lady Victoria Bruja."

The woman nodded her head at us haughtily, eyeing the three of us up and down. I felt sick under her strange gaze, and my hand automatically reached out to grasp hold of Jasper's, on my other side. He squeezed it gently, reassuring me.

Something had taken hold of our father. We didn't know what it was, but we all knew exactly who had caused it. And we were all scared for him.

They announced their wedding the very next morning, at breakfast. They sat together, making gooey eyes at one another, smiling sickeningly. My brothers and I just sat there in shock, staring at the pair of them. Had my mother been forgotten so easily? This Victoria was beautiful, of course, but so beautiful that she'd entranced our sensible, down-to-earth father? I could hardly believe it. But we said nothing.

The celebrations were just one week later. The halls of our home were elaborate with decorations and beautiful skirts and fine foods. Jasper told me, in private, that our father had spent most of the Shire's money on the wedding, to please his new bride. But my brothers and I stood silent as our father married his new bride, and that was our first mistake.

My second mistake was when I unknowingly heard something that she would rather I had not heard. A week after the wedding, while walking past the Bedchamber she shared with my father, I heard Victoria ask in a girlish, false voice, "Who in all the world is fairest, and has beauty of the rarest?"

A deep voice, one I did not know, answered her. "You are fair, I can't deny. But Isabella is the fairest, and her beauty is the rarest."

I heard a scream, and a shattering sound as something was broken, but I did not stay – I fled along the corridor, cheeks burning, wondering what exactly had just happened.

My third and final mistake was to cross her.

It was nearly a month after the wedding when it happened. Father had gone out into the forest to hunt with his men, Emmett and Jasper. I was left behind with my new stepmother, and she suggested that we take breakfast together. I agreed, if only because I knew I had no choice.

We ate in the large glass room at the back of the house. It was an awkward and silent meal – the food was good enough, but I found myself tongue-tied in her presence. We'd never been alone together.

My step-mother broke the silence when our plates were empty. "They tell me you are like the old Queen."

I looked up, startled. I felt my cheeks flush, as they often. "Yes... that is, I think so..." Emmett and Jasper said often how alike the two of us had been, both in looks and nature. Father had once said it too, a passing remark. I doubted he would now – we had not spoken since he'd returned. He seemed to have forgotten Renee altogether.

"She was beautiful, was she not?"

"Well... I think so." I could not help but wonder what she meant by this. What did she care if I thought my mother beautiful?

"Do you think I am beautiful, Isabella?"

"I—well, yes, I suppose so."

We were quiet for a moment. In the middle of my confused haze, I felt slight stirrings of anger. Why would she question me about this?

"Tell me, Isabella, do you think I am more beautiful than your mother?"

Her black eyes scrutinised me as I gazed back at her, feeling the anger begin to swell. While it was true that Victoria was classically perfect, her eyes held none of the kindness or warmth I remembered in my mother's eyes. What was it she'd always said, anyway? Beauty is on the inside. If that were the case, then how could Victoria be more beautiful than my mother, the kindest person I'd known?


Victoria's eyes flashed the strangest shade of red, before returning quickly to black. With a wave of her hand, she dismissed me, her lips pressed tightly together, and I fled her company gratefully.

I was awoken early, several weeks later, by a sharp pain just below my ribs. I jerked away, opening my eyes, startled. There was a man I'd never seen before stood over my bed, and there was a dagger in his hand. The pain was from the blade, which had pierced my nightclothes, and was pressed against my skin. The cut it had made was not deep, but I knew that with a flick of his wrist I'd be in much greater pain.

I tried to speak, but his hand pressed against my mouth with speed too great to imagine. I could not scream – although, now I came to think about it, who would answer? My brothers had never returned from their hunting trip with my father. He'd said that they had run into some old friends and decided to stay with them for a while, but something about his explanation made me uneasy. My father would not care, and Victoria? I doubted very much that she would, either. My eyes widened, and I stared up at him, begging him silently to spare my life. His own expression tightened, and he spoke quietly, as not to wake anyone else in the house. "I am under orders to kill you. I will hear what you have to say, but if you scream I will kill you."

I nodded, and his hand moved away from my mouth, though the blade stayed where it was. "Whose orders do you follow?" In my heart, I believe I already knew – but I had to make sure.

"I follow the orders of Lady Victoria Bruja Cisne."

Of course. Silently, I closed my eyes, trying to find a way out of the situation.

"I will do anything, Sir – I can leave silently. You will never see me again. Just spare me my life."

"Lady Victoria would have proof of your demise – she has asked me to retrieve your heart, so that she knows. And – did you not know? Your brothers have not yet returned from their trip. Your father believes them lost in the forest, or dead."

I felt like my heart had stopped, and I suddenly felt light-headed and dizzy. My brothers – lost? Dead? It could not be! Father had said that they were well, visiting some old friends...

Silently, I felt the first of my tears fall, and I bowed my head. "You may as well kill me, then, for without my brothers I have nothing."

I braced myself for the pain, the sudden feel of metal between my ribs, but it never came. Instead, the man seemed to take pity, and the blade was removed from my skin.

"I will spare your life, my Lady. Perhaps your brothers live still. The forest is a dark place, but it is not impossible to traverse. If you promise to leave now and never return, I will give the Lady Victoria the heart of a pig in place of your human heart. It will fool her."

I looked up at the man. He was already sheathing his dagger, and had stepped away from my bed. Unable to believe it, I scrambled to my feet and tore my heavy cloak from the wardrobe, pulling it around my shoulders and stepping into my sturdy riding boots.

"I thank you—"

"My name is Jacob, my Lady."

"Thank you, Jacob."

I could not take my horse from the stable – Victoria would notice if my fine stallion was missing – and so I hurried through the town on foot. It was near dawn – the moon hung low in the sky, and the sky to the east was beginning to lighten. The forest was not much further than the town boundaries, and once I had cleared a few hundred metres, they would never find me.

In my boot was slipped my delicate silver dagger, which had been my mother's. Aside from that, though, I had nothing except the clothes on my back. I was lucky that the cloak was dark - it would blend easily with the shadows of the forest.

It seemed like an age before I reached the tress, and the relative safety of the forest, but it was probably only a couple of minutes. I hesitated, and glanced back up at the manor house that had once been a home to me. Then I bit my lip, and glanced away. It was no longer a home, not since my estranged father and his new wife had returned. I could not live in a place where my life was constantly in danger. This was the right thing to do.

With new determination, I stepped forward among the trees, my cloak pulled tightly around me. I broke out into a light jog, jumping fallen trees and dodging bushes. I wasn't uneasy, exactly, but I wanted desperately to find my brothers.

I knew, now. I knew they weren't dead, because the world still felt right. If they died, my world would fall apart. I would know if they'd died, because I'd be able to feel it.

These meant that they were alive, and in this forest somewhere.

I kept on forward for an indeterminable amount of time. I could have been travelling in circles and I would not have known it – everywhere looked so similar. Every so often, I'd catch a glimpse of sun, and I used it to tell the time. When it reached directly overhead, I sat down gratefully on a fallen tree to catch my breath. I was hungry – I had grown complacent, too used to a life of luxury. How was I to eat?

But my mother had prepared me without me even realising it. As I looked around me now, I recognised several types of edible wild mushroom, some late summer berries and leaves. Grateful for her wisdom, I gathered enough to keep me going into the pocket of my cloak.

It was easier to keep moving: I liked to feel like I was doing something. I ate as I walked, enjoying the forest around me. But I was wary of the waning light, the shadows that were longer now. Soon, it would be nightfall – and what, then? How could I survive when the nocturnal creatures came out? By now, I was exhausted – I hadn't slept well the previous night, and had been woken early. Besides which, I'd been walking all day. I had to find somewhere to stay.

Night fell quickly in the forest. From all around me came the stirrings of creatures settling to roost or waking for the night. I shivered. With the darkness came a chill wind, cutting through even the thick wool of my cloak. Trying to hunker down further, I pulled the cloak tighter around me, trying to think of something that didn't hurt, in order to occupy my mind.

My brothers. Emmett was tall and muscular. He was just a year older than Jasper, and much less serious. Before Mother dies and Father left, he'd loved to prank people around the house. The absence of our parents had aged him prematurely. He was strong – but also agile. He was the best swordsman in our Shire, and everyone said he was probably the best in the whole country. I didn't doubt it. He looked like Father and I – we all shared the same curly dark hair, which was often mistake for black, and dark brown eyes. His skin was tan, though, unlike mine.

I was close to Jasper, too. Jasper was clever – he read books, and Father had often consulted him on matters of the estate. He was also exceptionally kind, though – he was always there for me to talk to, when others weren't. He was understanding and patient. But he was also quiet, and sometimes he paled in comparison to Emmett's loudness. But he never minded, not really. He looked like Mama – he had her blonde hair, though he shared our dark brown eyes. He was tall, too, though lean rather than muscular like Emmett.

I missed them both so much. If I never found them again...

I stopped that thought before it could continue. Of course I would find them again. They were alive, and I would find them. Even if it killed me.

After that first cold night, my survival in the forest was easier. Every day I walked for miles, always searching – though also exploring. I had a feeling that I would be stuck here for a while. I survived on wild berries and nuts, and sewed my clothes when they tore with a large Hawthorne spike pierced with my dagger, and with thread made of a thin but strong type of grass that seemed to grow everywhere. I grew used to the noise and danger of the forest.

Weeks passed. I bathed in cold streams and washed my clothes one garment at a time. I learned how to build fires and maintain them for warmth. It was a tough time, but I became stronger for it.

And then, one day, while dousing the embers of my little fire, I heard a noise like the snap of a twig to my left. My hand immediately darted to my boot, and closed over the hilt of my silver dagger as I glanced around warily. It could be a hunting party from the palace – in which case I'd die. But it was probably a wild animal. Quietly, I called out to whoever it was. If I died, I reasoned, I would be re-united with my mother.


Had I been expecting a reply? In any case, I did not receive one. Silenced reigned for several minutes, until I turned away, semi-disgusted by myself.

And then, there was a voice. It was a voice I'd never expected to hear again, a voice roughened by several months of forest life and danger. "Isabella?"

I nearly cried. "Jasper!"

And then he was there, and I had my arms around him, and we were both laughing aloud. We stayed there for several moments, tears in my eyes, until he finally pulled away. "Isabella... Bella, how are you?"

I could do nothing but smile, despite my hard few weeks. "I am better now. But where is Emmett?"

"He is back at the cottage we found – it's where we've been living," his smile faded slowly. "I'm sorry, Bella. If we'd known you were here too, we'd have come looking... but we thought you were at home, and safe."

I recounted the story of my near death experience, a hand unconsciously coming to rest on the scar that had formed just below my ribs. Jasper listened in horror as I told him all that had happened between Victoria and me. After I'd finished, we were silent for a time, until Jasper offered to take me back to the little house they'd made their own. Smiling, I agreed, and we walked back through the trees together.

When we came into view of the little cottage, I left Jasper behind and ran to Emmett, jumping lightly onto his back and laughing. He tensed quickly, before he recognised my laugh, and relaxed.

"Guess who I found in the forest, Em?"


I grinned, and jumped from his back so that he could spin around and hug me properly, his grin matching my own.

"Bella, it's so good to see you!"

That night, in front of the first real fire I'd seen in weeks, I retold my story for Emmett's sake, and my brothers recounted their own story. It transpired that they'd been abandoned in the forest by the hunting party, their horses stolen when they'd dismounted to look at something. They'd found this old cottage the next day, and had slowly re-built it. Apparently, he two of them had found work in a farm, half a day's walk from the cottage. Apparently, I'd travelled to the far edge of the forest, perhaps fifty miles. We were safe from Victoria and the spell she seemed to have over our father at long last, and our joy lasted until late at night.

There were three small beds; it turned out, in the little house. But since neither Emmett nor Jasper could fit into them, tall as they were, they took the floor anyway. I'd always been tiny, and so I had no problem sleeping in the little wooden frame.

Days in my new home soon turned into weeks and months. Summer turned to autumn, and autumn into winter. Food was scarcer now, harder to come by – sometimes, we went a little hungry. But the three of us survived together. My brothers never left me alone. They would go one at a time to the farm in the north, too wary of the threat to leave me alone. I complained, of course, but they always laughed it off, and said that the Farmer only ever needed one of them, anyway. I would never have said anything, but I was glad of their company.

Spring came, and with it the promise of new life. Buds began to form on the trees, and planting season at the Farm meant that my brothers were away for longer periods of time. I knew that both of them were needed, but still I could not persuade them to leave me alone.

On one morning, exactly one year after I'd first fled my home, Emmett returned. Jasper had been cutting firewood out the front of the house when I heard the dull thudding of his roughly-hewn axe stop. I made to hurry outside and then hesitated – my brothers were talking in low, hushed tones outside. This was clearly a private conversation.

"He needs us, Jazz. Brandon reckons that he won't get the planting done unless we both of us go."

"He might need us, but Bella needs us more. I won't leave her alone, Em, you know that."

"Bella's a big girl, and she's lived in the forest long enough. She's smart enough to be alright for a week or so."

"Maybe you're right, but I'm still not comfortable..."

"Brandon's offered us a house, Jazz. All three of us, on his farm. He says he'll pay us regular, and his wife will feed us if we'll go and work there permanently. But first we need to prove that we work well together. Please, Jasper – this is for Bella."

I could sense Jasper's hesitation, and I prayed silently that he would see the sense in the idea. It was just a week – and we'd have a house! A real house!

"All right."

"What? Seriously?"

"Yes, Emmett, seriously. I said all right. Let's do it – for Bella."

Silently, I cheered, before leaving the house to join them, the wide grin on my face giving me away. Jasper narrowed his eyes.

"You, Isabella Cisne, have been eavesdropping."

I shrugged, unrepentant, and Emmett laughed, puffing out his chest proudly, "She learnt from the best, Jazzy."

We all laughed at that, and spent the evening making plans for their departure the following morning. There was enough firewood stocked to keep me warm, and enough meat to keep me fed, though I preferred the berries and wild mushrooms I'd depended on so much the first few weeks.

The next morning, after reassuring the pair of them for the hundredth time that I'd be alright, they departed the little cottage quickly, leaving only silence behind them.

I must admit, it unnerved me. After so many months of living with Emmett's jokes and laughter, and Jasper's quiet wit and humour, the house seemed empty without them. But I busied myself, cleaning the little cottage until it glowed, and exploring the area extensively. I was surprised how pretty the forest looked after months of winter, and admired the way that the sunlight fell.

I explored for a week and a half, always finding new places and new creatures to examine. I was happy in my solitude, so happy that one day, walking through the forest, I was so preoccupied with some flowers that I did not notice the young man until it was too late. Blushing furiously, I picked myself up from the ground, trying to maintain whatever dignity I could salvage.

It did not escape my attention that this was the most handsome young man I'd ever met. He was tall, though not as tall as Emmett, and lean like Jasper. His eyes were a brilliant shade of green, and his hair an odd shade of red I'd never seen before. A smile graced his face now, as he looked down at me, and I felt my blush deepen.

"I... I'm sorry... I wasn't looking where I was going..."

He laughed quietly, "It is I who should apologise, mi señora. I should have been paying more attention to the road." His smile seemed to turn confused in an instant, "But what are you doing here in the forest, all alone?"

"Here?" I smiled, "I live here, with my brothers."

"You do?" He seemed surprised. "Then where are your brothers?"

I explained to him where they were, and he frowned. "They left you alone here?"

I shrugged, "Not until I practically begged them to go."

We stood there in silence for a moment, before he finally exclaimed, "Dios! I am so rude... May I ask your name, belleza?"

I blushed furiously; I knew well enough the origins of my name to interpret that word. He'd called me beautiful. "My name is Isabella. But what is yours?"

He smiled, "My name is Edward. I'm pleased to meet you, Isabella."

Edward did not stay long. With a promise of return he left, his fine clothes with him. After he'd gone I sat in silence for a while, just thinking... And then I stirred myself into action once more. I built the fire in the hearth and put some meat on the spit to cook while I waited.

I was startled, half way through my meal, by a sharp knock on the door. It was probably my brothers, back a day early. Grinning, I flew to the door and pulled it open... only to reveal a little old lady who looked pale and thin. I felt my eyes widen – she looked in such a poor way! A quiet exclamation must have escaped my mouth, because she chuckled dryly, her voice a wheezing cough.

"May I share your fire, child? I am old, and the night is chill."

"Of course!" I hurried back from the door, allowing her entrance into the little cottage. "I have some meat cooking – it isn't much, but it is hot. Please, come in."

The woman followed me in, and shut the door behind her. I offered her the larger, more comfortable stool, and sat down in the opposite one. Out of the cold, the woman's hood was drawn back and I saw for the first time her kindly, wrinkled face and smile. She was the kind of person you trusted instantly, and warmed to wholeheartedly.

"I have a little something that might go well with your pork, child." Her smile was warm, her eyes assertive. Gratefully, I took the round red fruit when she offered it – I had not tasted apples since I'd left home. But then I remembered my rudeness, and held it back to her.

"Would you like some, too?"

She smiled in gratitude, and took a dull knife from inside her cloak, cutting the fruit squarely in half. I noticed that one side was still green, the other blood red. The woman offered me the red half, and when I hesitated, she smiled still more widely. "It is the juiciest, child. Please take it."

I accepted it, and we took a bite at the same time.

It was the most bizarre sensation. My vision started to blur at the edges, and I suddenly felt exhausted. I swayed a little, my mind seeming to play tricks on me. I could have sworn that the woman stood and discarded her cloak, and at the same time her face seemed to change from kind and warm to angular and cat-like. Her white hair burned suddenly fiery red, and her eyes darkened to black.

But it could not be...

...And then my vision turned black.

It was the strangest thing.

Time passed in the oddest ways – sometimes speeding by, other times seeming to take forever. I was mentally aware of where I was – I could hear, at any rate – but I was completely stuck in one place, unable to move or speak. I was a prisoner in my own mind, held captive in my own body. It was torturous.

I became aware once more of my surroundings only a few moments after Victoria – for I now realised it was she – had left. I could not breathe – there was something stuck in my throat. I could only hear. It could not have been long before my brothers returned, but to me, in my state of catatonia, it seemed like forever. They believed me dead, and I could not tell them otherwise, trapped as I was. I heard their cries of pain and mourning, and my heart broke. I heard them talking about burial, about the traditional way of destroying corpses – fire – and tried to scream that I was alive, I was well. My cries, deafening in the confines of my own mind, went unheard.

They moved me to the bed where I was, at least, more comfortable, and tried to ignore me where I lay. They argued, I could hear them clearly fighting over what to do. Emmett wanted to pay respects to my body properly by burial or otherwise, but Jasper refused to believe I was dead. Grief made the pair mad and angry, clearly in pain, and again I struggled with the invisible bonds that held me where I lay.

And then, eventually, they found their solution. Together, Jasper and Emmett built a fire so hot that it melted glass, and proceeded to melt down all of the panes from the windows in the little house. It let in the chill and the wind, but Emmett and Jasper did not seem to care particularly.

With great effort, they managed to form a sort of glass coffin, procuring hundreds of burns along the way, which I could have cured in an instant, but my brothers had to bear. They bore them without sound, their grief betrayed by their unnatural silence.

When it was done, Emmett took my body into his arms, and lay me down into the glass coffin, the lid closed on top.

I had become strangely used to this half-life. Something about the catatonic state made me unchanging, trapped in my glass tomb. Unthinkable amounts of time passed – from within my transparent grave I could hear much of what was said around me, and used this to my advantage. But I could bear the solemnity of Emmett, and the quiet musings of Jasper.

What I could not bear was Edward's reaction, when he returned. I had almost forgotten about him – almost, but not quite. And after I heard his voice, his face haunted me behind my closed eyelids. He came to stay with Emmett and Jasper after a time, and they eventually began to trust him. They never left me alone with him, though – they'd learnt the hard way that my bad luck was constant and crippling. Even now that they believed me dead, they would do their best to protect me. Their love was touching.

I ached for the feel of Edward's hand around mine. I hadn't felt it for so long. I heard Jasper talking one day and realised that it was nearly autumn. I longed to feel the wind on my face again, the chill of winter, the summer sun. I felt so dead, useless, broken. I spent my days struggling to hear the voices of my brothers and Edward, and the nights fighting against whatever held me here. The chunk of apple lodged in my throat was a constant annoyance, irritating me constantly, to the point where I could barely feel it any more.

I knew that Emmett and Jasper still wanted to move, but that they'd found themselves unable to, because of me. I hated to be a burden, the one holding them back. But I couldn't just wake up and tell them that, no matter how I tried.

I gleaned, through eavesdropping on various conversations, that Jasper had met someone – a girl – and planned to marry her. More than anything, I wanted to be there for him, at his wedding, and I hated that I couldn't be. Her name, he said, was Alice – and the way he said her name, with such love and adoration, was enough for me. I was happy for him.

Edward had not left my side these long months.

Autumn turned quickly to winter, and I knew that my brothers and Edward suffered. My glass tomb was moved indoors with much effort, though they were careful. They kept a fire burning nearby all day, to keep them warm, for which I was grateful. Had I been left outside, I would surely have frozen to death. The three of them told stories around the fire and slowly, I learned more about Edward and his family. He was of noble blood, his family stretching back generations. He had one younger sister who he called Rose, and he told us about his life back home. He seemed to come from the country to the north – the same place where Emmett and Jasper had worked for Brandon.

Emmett had wondered aloud why Edward's family did not seem to care, but Edward brushed it off – he said he'd been travelling and not expected home. It seemed a sore subject for him, and my brothers were tactful enough not to try and pursue it.

Winter was long... but even the hardest of winters thaws eventually. Winter turned to spring, and the two-year anniversary of my flight into the forest. It had been almost a year since I'd been tricked by my stepmother and nearly killed. I knew that I had not changed at all, and though I did not breathe I looked as though I was merely asleep, my cheeks as flushed as ever. I knew that my brothers did not understand it, and nor did Edward – who'd kept vigil by my bedside for nearly a year, though I barely knew him.

Jasper and Emmett decided, once the first thaw came, that they'd take me outside once more to the weak spring sunlight. But on the way out, somehow, one of them tripped, sending a jolt through my body. I felt my throat give an involuntary cough, attempting to dislodge the apple that had kept me from truly breathing. I took air in through my nose for the first time in a year, and felt my lungs inflate once more. It was natural, easy. But I had to remove the apple from my throat.

Suddenly, the power of my limbs seemed to return to me. I rolled away, coughing and choking, until eventually the offending fruit was removed. I heard a shout from outside the coffin, as my eyes opened once more, taking in the awe and shock on the faces of the three men, who'd set the glass coffin down, and were attempting to remove the lid, which Emmett did with a great heave. I tried to sit up – but I was so weak. I tried to speak, but my voice was rusty from disuse and my throat sore.


With a great, booming laugh that filled me with joy, Emmett threw his arms around me. Half-sobbing, I found the strength to wrap my arms around his neck, and hug him back with the same enthusiasm.

"Bella?" It was Jasper. He'd never thought me dead, I could see it in the easy smile and acceptance on his face, and when Emmett let me go, I pulled him into a tight embrace too, my tears streaming freely, now.

"Jasper... who's Alice?"

To my amazement, I saw something I'd never seen before – Jasper blushed furiously, his cheeks turning pink. "You heard that?"

Edward chuckled, and I suddenly remembered his presence. Blushing furiously, I glanced up at the man who'd kept me company these long months, his patience seemingly endless.

"Thank you."

His smile grew, "It was my pleasure, Belleza."

I remembered the last time he'd called me that - a year ago. It only made me happier now to hear it, lost in his green eyes, where I would stay – conceivably for the rest of eternity.

Victoria Cisne Bruja had her comeuppance – when invited to the wedding of Lord Edward and his bride just a year later, her mirror travelled with her. Charles Cisne had died several months before, under suspicious circumstances, and Victoria was asked, over dinner, what the punishment should be for a woman who'd left her children alone in the forest to die. Believing her own step-children long dead, she did not even think of them, and told the Lord Edward simply that she should be hanged for her crimes.

And one week later, she was.

Translations (I totally don't speak spanish, and therefore love, love, love BabelFish. These are probably wrong. Meh.)

Cisne – Swan

Bruja – Witch

Mi Señora – My Lady

Dios! – An exclaimation. Like, God!

Belleza – Beauty

Blanco Como La Nieve - Snow White

Catch the LOTR quote and win props-for-life. Oh, and you should vote for me! (If you like it, that is. If not, then... well, don't.)