This is a story that combines my two favorite books of all time: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, and L.M Montgomery's The Blue Castle. For those who haven't read it, The Blue Castle is this achingly good novel set in the early 1900's about a woman who has been repressed, ignored and taken for granted her whole life. After she learns she only has a year to live, she decides to really live it.

After taking such a long break from ff net, I thought I'd better start with a story I've been itching to write for a while ;-)

Alternate Universe, All-Human. Right now the M rating is just for language. We'll see where future chapters take this.

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.


~August ~

Today has been the most… surreal day of my life. I never thought this would happen. Not in a million years. Not like this. Not to me.

I'll warn you right now that you'll think I've gone crazy—you'll think I've lost it, and maybe I have. Sane people don't act like me, they don't do the things I do. I used to be predictable, steady, dependable— I used to be completely boring. Not anymore I guess. But even if I'm crazy now I don't care. I'm too happy to care.

I should probably start at the beginning right? That's the way every story starts, with a beginning and a middle and an end… Only I don't quite know where the beginning is, and I'm still in the middle, and I already know the ending. Yeah, this is a crazy mixed up story here, so beware.

Should I start with my beginning? You'd be bored crazy if I did. The entire time I was living it I was bored. I was breathing and sleeping and eating but I wasn't alive. I was just going through the motions, talking when someone wanted an answer, smiling when it was expected of me, existing when really I was dead inside. Asleep. Too afraid to wake up.

And I didn't start to come alive until the day I saw him.

It was a boring Monday afternoon, just like every other Monday. There was rain in his hair, I remember that. And dark circles under his eyes like he hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks. His shoulders were hunched and he was pale and disheveled and wet… and he was beautiful. I didn't know his name or where he was from but I didn't care. He was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen.

And when he looked at me I blushed because that's what I do. And instead of introducing myself or even smiling at him, I ran. Because I always run. I didn't know how to be brave or funny or good enough. I always had tomorrow to learn to be those things, and when tomorrow stretched into next week and next week into next month and next month stretched into next year, I was still too scared.

Shy, timid, eternally overshadowed. My name is Isabella Swan and that's who I used to be.

I said before that I already know the ending to this story and that's true. I know the how's and the why's and I even know a ballpark when. Sure, that's not the way it's supposed to be. No one is supposed to know the ending before the story starts.

Funnily enough, I was always too impatient to stick to that rule; I always skipped to the end of a book before I bothered reading it. Why should I waste my time on a story with an unhappy ending? There was enough of that in real life. Ironic isn't it, that my own story must, inevitably end in tragedy?

Because this is a story that ends with my death.

My name is Isabella Swan and three months ago, I was told I only had a year to live.

If you only had a year to live what would you do? Would you go on living as if nothing had changed, try to pretend away the knowledge that the breaths you take are numbered, that every hour brings you closer to an unavoidable ending? Or would you decide to make the most of your year? Be glad for every second you survive through, regret nothing?

If you only had a year to live, what would you change? Would you quit your job and pursue the dream you'd given up at eighteen? Would you do that thing—that one thing that always scared you? Would you find the courage to tell someone you loved them? If you only had a year to live who would you hug close… who would you push away? Could you justify wasting even a single second?

Three months ago, I didn't know the answer to any of these questions.

It's hard knowing the ending to your own story before it's even begun. But if I hadn't known, I never would have had the courage to jump up and grab life, to squeeze out every drop. I never would have had this moment, or this kiss. I never would have had the most surreal day of my life.

Three months ago, I was terrified of living. I didn't know how to do anything but hide and blush and let all the best things get away from me. So I think that if you're going to understand the real Bella Swan, the one I don't let anyone see, then that's a very good place to start.

Chapter One: From the Very Start

Limb by limb and tooth by tooth
Tearing up inside of me
Every day every hour
I wish that I was bullet proof

Wax me
Mould me
Heat the pins and stab them in
You have turned me into this
Just wish that it was bullet proof

-Bulletproof… I wish I was, Radiohead


Libraries attract weirdoes.

Well, maybe that's a little harsh. Maybe it would be nicer to say that libraries attract the kind of people who are more comfortable around books than other people. I can say this with absolute truth because I am one of those people.

In high school I spent more school lunches hidden in the stacks reading than I did in the cafeteria. In college I did my work study at the campus library, sitting at the circulation desk and shelving books. When I came back to my hometown of Forks Washington after school I even got a job working at the local library.

My entire life I was definitely the kind of person who likes books better than people. Books are predictable, no matter how many times you read them they never change. And the books I read at least, all have happy endings where the girl gets the boy and the bad guys get what they deserve.

Real life isn't like that. Real life is messy and depressing and most of the time it just plain sucks.

Like right now for instance. I was standing on top of a very rickety old metal ladder, holding onto the side of it with one hand and clutching an oversize art book that had to weigh at least ten pounds with the other.

"I am going to die," I muttered furiously to myself, as I tried to get better footing. Every small movement I made caused the ladder to tilt dangerously to one side. I was sure that one of these days I was going to drop a book… or lose my balance (very likely) and crack my skull open on the darn decorative pot in the corner that did nothing but collect dust.

Dust that it was my job to clean every week.

Whoever had designed the Forks Public Library and had chosen to put the oversize books on the top shelf of the very tall bookshelves that lined the back wall was an idiot I decided. It was probably the same person who had cheaped out and bought this shitty ladder, and had never bothered to fix it afterwards when one of the wheels on the bottom had broken off.

But to be fair, maybe they hadn't ever imagined that the person doing the shelving would be Bella Swan, a girl who could manage to trip and fall while walking over a completely flat, clear surface.

Which meant that it was all my boss's fault for making me do this particular job in the first place. She knew how coordinately challenged I was, but since I was the "youngest" employee, the job had automatically been assigned to me. I looked back over my shoulder to the circulation desk, where Susan Mallory sat in her fancy rolling swivel chair, playing solitaire on the computer. She smirked up at me. "Almost done Isabella?"

I turned away so she wouldn't see me roll my eyes. "Sure," I answered. If this deathtrap doesn't kill me first.

I bit the inside of my cheek so I wouldn't say the words aloud, something I had a lot of practice with. I sighed and carefully descended the ladder to get my next and last oversized book from the cart.

The library was dead quiet and deserted, which was unsurprising since it was only 10:45AM on a Tuesday. I liked the place better the less people were in it.

Growing up, the building had been a tiny, musty-smelling space with one of those stereotypical librarians who'd always made shushing noises if she thought you were being even one decibel too loud. The old Sea Bank building had been renovated when I was a teenager, and as a result it was a much brighter nicer space, and there were a lot more books than I remembered as a kid. But if you went into certain parts of it, there was still a faint musty tinge to the air.

I liked that smell; it was comforting and homey and it reminded me of all the books I'd escaped into since I had discovered the places they could take me; that all you had to do was open one up and you could escape 'the real world.' There had been so many times in my life when I'd wished that books didn't have to end, that I could go on and on and on living inside them. The only consolation was that for every ending there were always hundreds more beginnings, hundreds more worlds to enter. And libraries were the best place to find them.

After I finished with the oversized books, I lugged the heavy book truck towards the front of the room, to where the YA books were shelved. The metal cart made a god-awful racket against the textured ceramic floor tiles, which were made to look like slate; I flinched at the sound and moved faster. Susan looked up at me as I walked past, making me blush even though there was nothing I could do about the sound.

I felt better when I turned the corner into the YA section, since Susan couldn't see me from her spot at the circ. desk. Privacy was something be savored, working with that woman.

Shelving isn't very interesting. All books have a specific spot, it's just a matter of finding it. And if your eyes start to blur after squinting down at tiny numbers and letters after awhile, and if you're tired of dragging a heavy metal cart and lugging books around then you should find another job because there's always more shelving to do in a library. Even ones in tiny towns like Forks.

I sighed after putting away an L.M Montgomery book, which was located on the very bottom shelf, and stood, stretching out my back. Once again, I relished the seclusion, and allowed myself to take a little break and look out the large window that overlooked Main Street.

As usual it was raining outside, and the light that fought its way in through the dirty windows was a dismal, murky grey. I scowled at it, uselessly wishing for sun that so rarely broke through the perpetual cloudy skies of the Olympic Peninsula.

What the hell am I still doing here? I wondered as I often did. I had grown up in Forks, except for the two brief years when my mother Renee had taken me to live in Arizona. If anyone should love the rain and the wet and the cold, it should've been me. But I didn't. It was too cold and too dark and too… too depressing. You had to work so much harder to be happy in the rainiest place in the continental U.S.

Usually I was very good at pushing away gloomy thoughts, but it was starting to get harder, maybe because it was springtime and the rain had been endless, even more so than usual. There should've been sun by now. I laid my head against the cool window, watching the drizzle of water droplets as they slid down the glass. Water, water everywhere…

The street was empty, except for a dark figure quickly exiting the hardware store across the street—

Immediately I straightened, straining so I could see the figure better. It was a man; his wide shoulders were bent, his head bowed against the rain. His thin grey t-shirt was quickly soaking through, and his hair was darkening from reddish bronze to black as he ran towards a shiny silver Volvo.

I knew that car by heart.

For not the first time in my life I wished I were close enough to see the raindrops slip down the curve of his cheek…

Edward Masen.

I sighed a little wistfully. I could count on one hand the number of times that I had seen him in the past six months, but it was always a memorable experience—for me and for the rest of Forks.

It wasn't that surprising that he had taken us all by storm when he'd first arrived. Mysterious, intensely private. Beautiful. Everyone wanted to know more. The only problem was that he hadn't let anyone in. He didn't tell anyone why he had come or how long he planned to stay, just did his own thing. He hadn't fit in with anyone's expectations: he wasn't a hunter or a hiker, like most of the visitors here, and as far as everyone knew he didn't have a job. Six months ago he'd bought an old hunting shack on the lake, but what he did there was anyone's guess.

I watched for a few more moments as he ran to his car and sped off, going at least ten miles over the speed limit. Seriously, that man and speed limits did not get along. I pushed away the guilt I felt for practically stalking him. It wasn't as if anyone would blame me—they were all too busy doing it themselves. He was too beautiful really, with his pale skin and the sharp angles of his face and jaw.

With a little sigh, I turned back to the books I was shelving, glad I only had a few more to put back before my shift at the library ended and I could go home for the night. I snuck a quick look at Susan to make sure she hadn't noticed the quiet, and pulled out my cell phone. One missed call.

"Hey Bells, it's Charlie—" I rolled my eyes as I listened to the message, who else would it be? "I think we used up the last of the milk this morning. Do you mind running by the store on your way home? I'll uh- I'll see you later." Well that was fine, I could pick up some things for dinner. Maybe chili? We hadn't had that in awhile.

I finished shelving and lugged the now empty truck back to the desk. Susan had stopped playing internet games and was checking in a huge pile of books. She smiled at me as I put the cart back in its place.

"All done?"

I nodded and joined her behind the desk just as the front door opened and Mrs. Stanley blew in with a breeze, her cheeks red with excitement. I resisted the urge to groan; God only knew what kind of new "gossip" she had for us today.

Before I'd started working at the Forks Public library, I'd thought people were exaggerating when they said that gossip runs rampant in small towns. I quickly learned how wrong I was, especially since libraries are the worst offenders.

Mrs. Stanley was the worst gossip in town, and she had that familiar look in her eyes. "Hello Susan—Isabella," she said a little breathlessly, hardly giving us time to respond before launching into her speech.

"You'll never guess who was just over at the hardware store!" I repressed a smirk, knowing exactly who she was talking about, but in spite of myself I leaned forward a little to hear the latest dirt. Maybe this time she'd have something new.

"It was Edward Masen. I was in there saying hi to Beth and I'll tell you—you could have knocked me over with a feather! I haven't seen him in a month; I thought he'd moved away. Finally," she added, trying to sound like that was the best idea she'd ever heard, but her voice wasn't quite bitter enough to pull it off. Truth was, she liked having Edward around.

He was someone to talk about in a town where nothing else happened.

After a few minutes I gave up listening and started getting my stuff together so I could go home. Mrs. Stanley had nothing new to say, except that he'd bought a screw-driver and box of screws. Instead, she and Susan were recycling all the old stuff.

Edward did drugs.

Edward did drugs and was a dealer. That's how he got all his money; he was cooking crystal meth in his basement and growing pot in his bedroom.

Edward went around drunk all the time. Don't you remember the time Mrs. Stanley's daughter Lauren had been talking to him one day (I thought she'd probably been trying to ask him out) and he'd just started laughing at her—right while Lauren was talking!—and then he'd just walked away! Because alcoholics do that kind of thing don't you know.

Edward was hiding up here because he was running away from something—what?— he brought a different girl to his house every weekend then dumped them—he had a police record—he was having an affair with that Brandon girl in Port Angeles, even though she was engaged…

I'd heard it all before.

And I was pretty sure most of it was made up. I didn't even really care. He was just a guy I liked to look at every now and then. What he did in his personal life was none of my business.

I said goodbye to Susan and Mrs. Stanley and headed out into the rain. It had slowed to a sluggish drizzle but I ran to my '53 Chevy truck with the umbrella open anyway. I hated getting wet. After a quick stop at the Thriftway, I pulled into the driveway of my house, grateful to be home.

Well, to the home I shared with my Dad Charlie anyway.

Yep, that's right. I'm twenty-six years old and I still live with my father. It doesn't get much more embarrassing than that. Well… until you add in the fact that I am twenty-six years old and I've never had a boyfriend.

Wait! It gets worse. I'm also twenty-six years old and I've never been kissed.

Naturally, I didn't like to spend much time dwelling on those depressing realities however, hence the insane amount of time I spent reading, and cooking, and listening to music.

I grabbed the bag of groceries and ran into the house. Normally, living with Charlie wasn't such a bad thing: he gave me my space, didn't pry, and generally wasn't too much of a slob. I didn't pay rent, just cooked him dinner, did the dishes and the laundry. It could've been worse… I guess.

I got the things together for my chili and put it all in the pot to simmer, and then absently started straightening the piles of newspapers that Charlie had strewn everywhere that morning. It was my very favorite time of day, when I was alone in the house, and everything was quiet. I didn't have to pretend to be anyone else.

The problem was it never lasted as long as I wanted it to. A quick glance at the clock showed that Charlie would be home any second, and while he wasn't a big talker, he'd still be there watching ESPN with the volume turned up too loud. I sighed, and went upstairs thinking I'd change out of my 'work clothes' and into something more comfortable.

Halfway up the stairs, the pain hit.

Oh damn it! I yelled at myself inwardly. Not today—please not today. Familiar sharp pricks lanced across my chest, centering around my heart. Quickly, I finished walking up the stairs and practically ran to my room, exhaling slowly and thankfully when the door closed behind me, glad that Charlie hadn't been around to see me like this. With one arm wrapped protectively across my chest I sat down on the floor, leaning against the edge of my bed. I breathed deeply and calmly, bracing myself against the pain I knew would only get worse before it was over.

I could hear Charlie moving downstairs, probably devouring the chili that I was now too sick to eat. My fingers were shaking as I reached up to the nightstand to grab my iPod. I managed to put the ear buds in and start my favorite Foster song before another razor-sharp spasm of pain shot through my heart, spreading across my left shoulder.

Almost like a heart attack. But I was too young and too healthy for that… I had always believed that anyway.

It had all begun innocently enough—just a little chest pain every now and then. I'd thought it was heartburn and took some Tums, sure the pain would be gone in the morning. It was. But though that particular pain had faded, a new pain returned just a few days later, and then again a few days after that.

I did everything I could think of; I avoided spicy foods, drank lots of water, started eating more salad, popped Tums religiously… but nothing helped. The pain didn't go away, and the 'attacks,' as I'd taken to calling them had steadily worsened until I had begun to wonder if something was seriously wrong with me.

Two hours later the last ripples of pain finally started to recede. I sucked in a deep, grateful breath. Every inch of my body shivered as the aftershocks faded. Recently, these attacks left me curled up in a fetal position on the floor, breathless, clammy-cold, with every muscle in my body tense and aching, and this was the worst one yet. Tentatively, I uncurled and started stretching, trying to loosen muscles that hadn't relaxed in over an hour.

I couldn't do this anymore. I'd put up with the pain for the last six months, but this was too much—went too far beyond what I was capable of handling. I pushed myself onto my hands and knees and crawled over to my messenger bag, fingers trembling as I dug through its contents, looking for my cell phone.

It was time to make a long overdue doctor's appointment.

I'd love to hear what you think of this!