VERY IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE:
This story contains rape and sexual assault without much detail. It contains GRAPHIC physical violence. Please do not read if either will make you uncomfortable.
To MrsKatyCullen, Larin20, and countless others -- thank you. I cannot express how many times I'd have abandoned this project without your input, your support, and your help.
Before Bella came along, I floated aimlessly. I drifted from one day to the next, with no discernible end in sight, every day blended into the next. She saved me from a boring existence and swept me into a life less ordinary.
For nearly a week, we'd heard about nothing but the new student, a girl from New Orleans named Bree Gray. It had been eighteen months since Bella had started at Forks High. She was no longer, as Jessica Stanley had so eloquently put it, "the shiny new toy" for people to discuss and analyze. Now, it was Bree's turn to deflect the unwanted attention.
"Heads up, Edward – new girl's here and she looks sassy and unamused. I'm glad Jasper's not here – I can feel the hostility from a mile away." Alice's thoughts drifted to me from the front of the school and I instinctively clutched Bella closer to me.
Bree appeared at the end of the science hallway, dressed all in black with flaming red hair and vibrant green eyes. The echoing clomp of her steel-toed boots was the only sound in a hallway full of students that had literally stopped breathing as she passed.
She looked like one of us, but only human. Her alabaster skin didn't sparkle but it seemed to glow almost as much as her glaring green eyes. She wore pink headphones which wrapped around her neck as if daring someone to make fun of her favorite color.
When I'd met Bella, she had been blank. Her mind a silent void that I couldn't penetrate. The new girl was her polar opposite. In her presence, every mental signal around us was multiplied, broadcast louder than ever before. Around her, Mike Newton's adolescent teenage fantasies became unbearably loud and for the first time in nearly a century, I had a headache.
Bella looked ready to approach her, but I took her hand and pulled her into a half full science class just before the bell. Bella gave me a strange look for two reasons. One, this wasn't our class and two, she was determined to make the new girl's first day experience more pleasant then hers and didn't understand why I hastily pulled her away before she could greet Bree. Bella wanted to keep away the over eager residents of Forks High, but I knew that the well-meaning gift would be misinterpreted and shunned.
"Edward, what are you doing? Come on, Mrs. Goff is going to kill me for being late!" Bella tugged on my hand and I allowed her to pull me down the hallway toward our Spanish class. If we hadn't been in all the same classes this year, I probably would have killed myself from boredom by now. Or asked the Volturi to do it for me.
"¡Usted estas tarde!" Mrs. Goff barked at Bella, completely ignoring me. She had never forgiven me for correcting her questionable grammar my first year here. But she couldn't seem to find a reason to fail me on purpose, so she just pretended that I didn't exist.
"Estamos arrepentidos, Senora Goff," Bella replied smoothly, while I flashed my charming smile. We slid into our seats as Alice glared at us, rolling her eyes. "New girl gives me a headache, Edward. Have you met her yet?"she internally complained.
I shook my head slightly, pretending to scribble notes down as Mrs. Goff jabbered on about when to use the predicate tense. Alice's eyes narrowed and unfocused for a second and I saw flashes of Bree as a small child pass through my head. Too low for human hearing, I muttered to Alice, "Did you just see her past?"
Alice nodded, groaning softly. "It's been happening all day. I can't see any of her future, but I keep seeing her at Christmases, family dinners – even at a funeral." I frowned, wondering what her vision could mean. Alice had never seen anyone's past before.
Mrs. Goff picked that time to ask me a question and I lazily answered, ignoring Bella's concerned look. The bell rang after what felt like an eternity, even to me, and we headed to lunch. I quickly filled a tray with food for Bella, though it was enough to feed the three of us, and we sat down at our normal table. We sat at the table silently, Alice and I pretending to eat while Bella picked at her pizza.
"This is ridiculous! What's going on? Is there something wrong with Bree?" Bella could be too intuitive for her own good sometimes.
Alice shot me a pointed look. "You should tell her Edward."
"Okay, fine,"I said out loud. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was listening as I leaned closer to Bella.
"She's like the reverse of everyone, Bella. I can read her thoughts, but they're reflections of everyone's thoughts around her. Alice can't see her future, but she can see her past. She's not one of us, but she doesn't seem entirely human either." Bella's eyes narrowed as I told her, but she looked more concerned than anything else. I expected her to comment, but she instead trained her eyes just past my shoulder. I leaned back in my chair as I heard the now familiar footfalls of Bree entering the lunchroom.
"Shut up, Edward, she's right there!" she replied through her teeth with a nod of her head. She shyly smiled at Bree who had just entered the lunch line. I turned and stared at Bree for a moment before sliding what I hoped was a welcoming smile onto my face. Just as Bree met my eyes we both recoiled. I felt an internal explosion of sound and I clutched my head in an attempt to silence the voices that were bouncing back and forth.
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head as the connection broke, leaving us both panting. Bree gripped the railing of the food line until Jessica Stanley said, "Move it, freak!" Bree didn't even bother to clear her tray as she staggered toward us. Bella grabbed my face and pulled me close. I felt her concern while she caressed my cheeks. I noticed Alice pulling Bree away from the table, both of them looking like they were about to be sick. Bella and I quickly got up from our table, carrying our food trays, to join them.
Looking around, I was glad that most of Forks High ignored us. Other than the always nosy Jessica, Bella and I were no longer a couple full of novelty. Unfortunately, having the new girl in our vicinity - and Jessica's loud comment - put us back on the radar. The usual suspects were looking at us a bit awkwardly. Bree and I both turned to the table where Jessica, Lauren, Mike, Eric and Tyler sat and glared. Without a word, I dumped the trays of uneaten food and all four of us left the cafeteria together.
I expected Bree to follow us, but she scurried toward the parking lot. We watched her enter a beat up Nissan, locking the doors behind her. Alice, Bella and I hopped into the bed of Bella's truck, ignoring the barely misting rain. I rubbed a hand over my eyes and laid my head on Bella's lap and looked at Alice, who was bent over resting her head on her knees.
"I've never had that kind of 'mental reverb' before," I confessed. Both girls sighed in response. I glanced over at Bree's car, catching her pained and broken expression. For an instant she looked older than I felt. Her red hair fell over her green eyes and she pulled her hoodie closer over her head, snuggling into it for warmth. She tangled her fingers in her loose locks, twisting her tresses frantically.
Alice ran a hand through her hair – a habit I could only assume she'd picked up from me, and one that seemed slightly amusing given Bree's current status — and said, "There's something wrong with her. Like...really wrong. She's lived through something horrible and we need to find out what it is."
"I don't know, Alice," Bella countered, her voice harsher than I'd ever heard it before. "She seems pretty normal to me. Just another gorgeous girl trying hard to be rebellious and angry by shunning people before they shun her. I knew dozens of girls like that in Phoenix. They were as bad as the popular girls -- they were just a separate group. It's almost like -" Bella's voice broke off as Alice's eyes glazed over and she shook slightly. Alice opened her mind and let me see her vision.
Bree was walking in a neighborhood that looked a little ragged. The buildings were covered with spray paint, mostly graffiti and insurance information. I could see there were water marks that told me it was New Orleans, post-Katrina. The dampness in the air and the trees strewn around the street insinuated the storm hadn't been long ago, though. The sky was an ominous gray that made it impossible to tell what time of day it was, but Bree wore a light dress and was sweating slightly.
She walked past a group of young guys, mixed races but all exceptionally poor-looking. They hooted at her, yelling vulgar things, but she ignored them and kept strolling down the street. She was thinking about what she'd make for dinner, but she was acutely aware of the footsteps behind her as the boys began following her down the deserted street.
"Where are you going, sweetheart? Maybe we can make sure you get there 'safely,'" one guy leered as his friends laughed, slowly closing in on her red headed form.
The bell rang loudly signaling the end of lunch but none of us moved. Bella poked me in the ribs, irritated that I hadn't filled her in on Alice's vision.
"I think she was raped," I told Bella in a low voice, "by a group."
Bella's mouth dropped open and she drew a quick breath, looking over toward Bree's direction.
"Well, that's enough to make even the prettiest girls unhappy," Bella muttered, chewing her lovely lower lip worriedly. "Just ask Rosalie."
A/N – I originally planned to post this all at once, but my ficsters convinced me otherwise. Please tell me what you think so far. This story is written – I'll get it posted as it returns from the betas.