"Mentalward" Contest

Pen Name: Miss Snazzy
Title
: The Voices
Summary: When life gives you a slightly crazed angel with a thirst for blood, what do you do? You bury the evidence in the backyard.
Word Count: 14,275

For any other information, submissions, or rules please go to:

www (Dot) fanfiction (Dot) net/~mentalwardcontest

Disclaimer: Twilight and all its characters belong to Stephanie Meyer.

***

A/N: I would like to thank punkfarie for reading through chunks of this and reassuring me that I'm not completely lame. This is the first one-shot contest I have ever entered. This is the first one-shot I have ever written. This is the first fanfiction I have ever completed.

This may also contain the first sprinkle of lemon I've ever written. This is just a time for firsts isn't it?

WARNING FOR VIOLENCE, GORE AND SEXUAL CONTENT.

***

I walked through the familiar metal door into a large white room. He was seated in his wheelchair by the window, staring out the window as always. After an incident ten years ago, the owners of the facility had added several iron bars to disrupt the view. This hadn't deterred him from taking the same position for the last thirteen years.

"Hi Charlie."

He didn't acknowledge my presence, but then, he never did. He just continued to stare unseeingly out the window. For years I've wondered why this door to the outside world captivated him so. There were many windows, but this was the only one that ever interested him. If placed in front of the others, his eyes would slide shut and remain closed until someone moved him.

His feelings toward this window, if he was still capable of feeling anything at all, worried me. Today, although starting out similarly to the others, was very different. Today would be his last day in this place. Today, I would take him home.

"I'm here to take you home, Charlie." He blinked, but his eyes retained the same glazed over state I had known since I was five.

"Are you excited for your first day of school, Bella?" she asked enthusiastically.

"No," I pouted.

"No?" she asked in exaggerated disbelief. "Why not? Aren't you excited to meet all of your classmates?"

I winced as she pulled my hair up into a tighter pony tail. "Why do I have to go to school on my birthday?"

"Because you can't miss your first day Bella! You need to go to school and make some new friends."

I jutted my chin out stubbornly. "But I don't want to make any friends. I already have a best friend."

"Jake?" she asked in confusion. "I thought you said he was too little to be your friend?"

"He is!"

"Oh, then who?"

I turned around so that she could see the hurt in my eyes. "You're my best friend, Mommy."

"Oh, you're my best friend too sweetie," she smiled widely, giving me a hug.

"Then why do I need more friends?"

"Because everyone needs a friend their own age. One day, you won't want to play with your mother anymore."

"I'll always want to play with you!" I protested.

"Are Queen Renee and Princess Bella ready to go?" Daddy asked, leaning down to ruffle my hair. I quickly dove out of the way and hid behind Mommy. I didn't want to suffer through another one of her hairdos.

"Don't you dare mess up the perfection I just achieved!" Mommy warned, pointing her finger at him accusingly. I giggled.

His head bent forward and his expression became sad. I ran out from behind Mommy and latched onto one of his legs. "We're ready Daddy!" I beamed, until I remembered that I didn't want to go to school. "Do I really have to go to school?" I gave him my most heartbreaking expression, hoping it would persuade him to let me stay home.

"You do if you want your surprise…" he smiled.

"Surprise?" I asked in excitement. "What is it?"

"Not until after school," Mommy said, extending her hand.

"Ok," I sighed in acceptance, taking her hand and one of Daddy's in the other.

We pulled up to the school, the large red bricked building towering ominously. I clutched Mommy's hand tighter, wondering if tears would convince her to let me stay home.

"Ok Bella, I will be right out here at three o'clock to pick you up," Mommy said.

I stared down at the pavement until I felt my chin being pulled up. "It'll be fun, Bella. And just think, tonight we'll get to celebrate your fifth birthday," Daddy said.

I nodded as he kissed my forehead. Mommy knelt down and gave me another hug. "We love you, Bella. Have a good first day."

With that, they were gone.

My first day of school was strange and embarrassing, but somehow a little fun at the same time. This one boy stabbed me with a pencil and another chased me around the playground, but I did like to learn. Plus, I couldn't wait for my special surprise.

I stood in the same spot Mommy and Daddy had left me this morning and waited.

A half hour went by and I was alone, my Daddy's cruiser no where in sight. I was sitting on the ground when Mrs. Cope, my teacher, walked over to me.

"Hi, Bella. Would you like to come inside to wait for your parents?" she smiled down at me.

I nodded, still a little too shy to talk to her. She took my hand and led me into a warm office, handing me a coloring book and some crayons before taking her seat behind her desk.

An hour went by and I had finished five pictures, when the phone finally rang.

"Hello, this is Mrs. Cope," she answered.

"What? When?" she asked, glancing at me with a weird look on her face.

"Do you think that's wise?" she asked, her mouth set into a grim line.

"Okay, I will. See you soon." She hung up the phone and walked over to me.

"I'm going to take you home, okay Bella?"

I nodded, wondering why my Mommy wasn't picking me up, but unable to ask.

She parked along the curb and I looked at the mysterious cars in the driveway in confusion. Was this part of my surprise?

I jumped out of the car and ran toward the door, too excited to wait any longer. I vaguely registered Mrs. Cope's voice telling me something, but I was already turning the doorknob. I walked in, blinking my eyes at the darkness. Flicking on a light, I glanced around at all of the blue streamers and balloons.

Mommy was no where to be seen, but I noticed Daddy sitting in his recliner. I went over to him and hopped onto his lap. He didn't seem to see me, so I waved my hand in front of his face.

"Daddy?"

He remained silent.

I touched his cheek, trying to get his attention. He continued to stare at the television, which was turned off.

I looked around the room again, wondering where Mommy was.

"Where's Mommy?"

Daddy's eyes focused on mine for a second as he whispered, "She's gone."

That was the last time my father had spoken to me.

I found out later that my mother had gotten into an accident on the highway. She was on her way home from Port Angeles where she had been shopping for my birthday presents. Apparently she was on the phone with my father when it happened.

A drunk driver had swerved into her lane and in an attempt to avoid collision; my mother had turned onto the shoulder, where she hit a street lamp. The initial impact had severely injured her, but it wasn't until she was in the hospital undergoing surgery that she was finally pronounced dead.

I never found out what my surprise was, or what my mother had purchased for me in Port Angeles. I was young when it happened and therefore wasn't allowed to view the wreckage. I'm sure if I put in some effort, I could discover the contents of my mother's vehicle, assuming it hadn't been disposed of. I had never tried though.

I didn't want to know which one of my desires had resulted in my mother's death.

Sighing heavily, I moved to stand behind my father's wheelchair and grasped the handles. I began to wheel him backwards, when I heard a loud piercing shriek. I glanced around frantically, until I realized the noise was coming from in front of me.

I ran around to face my father and gasped in horror at the expression on his face. His eyes were wide and panicked as they darted around the room. I placed my hand on his cheek, much like I had when I was five, in an attempt to calm him down.

His shrieking grew louder and I flinched back at the look now in his eyes. They were no longer glazed or panicked, but openly glaring into mine. With a strength I didn't know he still had, he lunged out of his chair, knocking me to the ground in the process.

"It's your fault!" he screamed as his hands closed around my neck. I clawed wildly at his arms, unable to shove the large man off my tiny body.

He squeezed tighter, maintaining a steady chant as he did so. "It's your fault!"

My frightened eyes stared into his hatred as I gasped at the lack of air. Black blotches were beginning to dot my vision and I realized I was about to die at the hands of my father.

I felt his large frame being pulled off of me and I curled into the fetal as I coughed and choked on the sudden existence of air in my lungs. Through blurry eyes, I watched as a man dragged my father backward and slammed him into a wall. If not for my coughing spasms from his strangling, I would have asked the man to be careful handling him. Somehow his act of rage against me hadn't elicited any anger, just the familiar sense of self-loathing and pity.

After all, it was my fault. I was responsible for my mother's death. If it hadn't been for my godforsaken birthday, she would be alive. The thought that if I had never been born she would be breathing had crossed my mind more times than I could count. Although I believed this, it was still devastating to hear my own father agree.

The room was silent now, apart from my choking breath and the heavy breathing of the man I had yet to fully see. I watched a shimmering form approach me and found myself comparing him to a guardian angel, although the effect was probably due to the tears in my eyes.

"Are you alright?" a velvet voice asked.

I blinked up at him, trying to clear my vision. I winced at the stabbing pain I felt when I cleared my throat. Rubbing my neck, I sat up and forced the words through.

"I'm fine," I croaked.

He nodded and hesitantly extended a hand. I looked up at him, the light coming from behind him shining on his ruffled hair and making the tips seem like they were on fire. His jaw was smooth and there were bags that seemed permanently carved below his eyes, which were a startling shade of green.

Despite his lack of certainty, they were shining with something much more final. The word green seemed like such a common and bland way to describe them. It was a small irritation in the back of my mind as I reached for his hand.

When our palms touched, he visibly flinched and I retracted my hand quickly. It felt empty dangling at my side, a slight cold sting residing on the skin that made contact with his.

He was looking at the floor now, avoiding eye contact. Although we hadn't even officially met, his dismissal hurt. When he turned and started to walk toward the door, I panicked.

"Wait!"

He paused mid-step, but didn't turn around. I jogged over to his side—his strides were long and he was fast—and tried to think of something to say.

"What's your name?" I asked.

He was glaring at the wall behind me and I felt that same pain twist through my stomach. How could he be my savior one moment, and hate me the next?

"Edward," he answered in a clipped tone.

Without thought, I extended a hand. "My name is Bella."

His gaze moved to my hand, but his remained at his side. I lowered mine after a minute, feeling ridiculous and rejected. He walked around me and was just passing over the threshold when I mumbled, "Thank you, Edward."

They told me he wasn't ready. They told me the change of venue wasn't a good idea. They told me to be patient and they would update me if they made any progress.

That was all fine and dandy, but now I was stuck in our old house. Alone.

When Renee died, Charlie lost it. He fell into the state he is in now, essentially leaving me without a parent. At first people said it was shock and that he would snap out of it. He had a five year old daughter to take care of after all…

Wishful thinking was abandoned when I started coming to school caked in dirt and eating top ramen for every meal. I was too little to use the stove—a rule my mother had put in place—so hot food wasn't common. Sue Clearwater had come by one day with a casserole, figuring it might be nice to alleviate some of Charlie's stress over raising a little girl.

Of course when she found Charlie still sitting in his chair and me stomping on a pack of noodles—in order to crush it—she realized something was wrong. Shortly after that, Charlie was sent to the psyche ward and I was sent to a foster home.

I was adopted by the Hales—a well off family in Arizona. I guess they were friends with my parents in college and when they heard the news of my mother's death and my father's loss sanity, decided to help out.

Now don't get me wrong, they were alright people and I'm grateful for the roof they put over my head and the food they put in my belly. They were nice—they really were—but there wasn't a moment where I forgot I was adopted. One could blame the yearly visits to Charlie, but the more prominent reason was Rosalie.

She was the golden child and her parents fawned over her. If Rosalie wanted something, she would have it. I on the other hand, had to work for everything that didn't fit into the necessities for life. I wouldn't have had that any other way—I liked earning my possessions and despised gifts—but it was kind of unnerving to have to work so hard for things Rosalie was given without question.

I was also expected to do the dishes every night and to take care of all the cleaning. I was basically a live-in maid.

The Hales ran a daycare out of their home, accepting some of the whiniest and destructive children in the neighborhood. Rosalie was always around—despite her vindictive nature, she adored children—ready to tattle on me if I wasn't keeping the children to the schedule they had set.

I was also a live-in nanny.

Still, I was grateful. I really was.

When I turned eighteen, the money from my mother's life insurance policy had been passed to me. Charlie was deemed unfit to handle such a sum and I was the next on the list. Once I finished high school, I thanked my adoptive parents and flew to Port Angeles to pick up my father, so that I could take him home.

Now that I was an adult, I could take care of him from home. I had the experience from dealing with children and this way I could feel…useful. I felt like I owed my father something for what I had taken from him.

He clearly didn't want to leave with me though, which left me in the house I hadn't entered since Renee died…

I opened the door, cringing at the aged creaking it made. Even though the house was dark, I could see the film of dust covering all of the surfaces. I quickly got to work, cleaning everything in sight, but avoiding a few select rooms.

My parent's bedroom. My mother's work room.

Once the house was dust free, I threw my body onto the couch and allowed myself a little nap. When I awoke, all the lights were off. I looked around curiously, wondering if there was a blackout. I had remembered leaving all of the lights on before lying down.

Sitting up, I stretched, feeling a slight pain in my neck. This was what I got for sleeping on the couch rather than my bed.

When I stood up, my thigh bumped the coffee table, sending a vase crashing to the floor. I sighed angrily, bending down to collect the pieces. With my eyesight level with the table, I deposited all of the flowers on its surface, happy at least that I knocked over something containing water and flowers rather than something that would have stained the carpet.

After throwing the fragments of glass in the trash, I grabbed another vase from the kitchen and walked back into the living room. I picked up of the pile of flowers and that's when I noticed it. Among the white lilies was a red rose.

I removed the anomaly, twisting it in my fingers as I examined each petal, each thorn. There was a black satin ribbon tied around the stem. I knew this hadn't been there before—I had spent several minutes admiring the flowers I had purchased in a local flower shop on my way home.

So if it didn't come with mine, where did it come from?

I glanced around the room, wondering if someone had come by, noticed me sleeping, and just left it. That seemed highly unlikely—not only was that a very strange thing for someone to do, but the door was locked.

But the windows aren't.

Shaking my head, I placed the white lilies in the new vase, deciding to keep the strange red rose in my hand as I climbed the stairs to my bedroom. My nap had if anything made me more tired and it was now a reasonable time for me to go to bed.

After changing into my pajamas—which consisted of a shirt with sleeves that cut off at the elbow and a pair of shorts—I slid under my blankets.

I found myself thinking of Edward. Why had he behaved like that after we touched? Why was he in the psyche ward?

Now that I thought about it, he was wearing white. Of course, everyone wore white there, so I guess that really wasn't a clue. He either worked there, or was a patient.

But then, the way he took charge didn't seem like something a patient would do. He was very protective, definitely more like an employee. I fell asleep, wondering why I cared so much about a guy I had barely even met.

I was reliving my mother's final moments—as I often did—and I knew it. I knew what was happening, but I could wake up. I was as I am now, except sitting in my mother's car driving down the highway. I could see the drunk driver weaving and I knew what was about to occur. My mind was very aware, but I couldn't seem to command my hands. They were moving in a slow and relaxed manner, oblivious to the impending danger.

Suddenly, I heard a creaking that I didn't recognize. This dream was always the same—there was never a variation. Same sounds, same thoughts, same everything. This creak was new…

I awoke with a start, bolting upright and shivering as a cold breeze clung to my skin. My eyes darted to the window and I gasped at the form I saw standing beside it.

He jerked his head in my direction at the sound and although it was dark, I knew who it was.

"W-What?" I asked, unsure of what I wanted to know.

"I couldn't do it."

"Do what?" I asked.

"I couldn't stay away," he admitted in a shamed whisper. "I tried to forget about you. I tried to tell myself you meant nothing. I tried to leave you alone…"

I swallowed, trapped in his gaze like a deer caught in headlights.

"But I couldn't. I couldn't stop thinking about you. I couldn't make myself hate you, like I wanted. And I most certainly can't leave you alone."

"Why do you need to?" I found myself asking unexpectedly.

"Don't you understand?" he laughed darkly.

I shook my head, confused by both his words and the way my heart was beating so furiously in my chest. All I knew was his name…why was he affecting me this way?

"I can't leave you alone," he said through gritted teeth.

"Then don't," I whispered.

He stalked forward, stopping at the edge of my bed. We were both breathing heavily and I wondered what he was planning to do, when one of his knees lifted up to press into my mattress. I listened to the sounds the springs made as he allowed his weight to push them down and felt like my heart was going to burst through my chest when his other knee followed and he started coming toward me.

"Don't say things like that unless you mean it," he murmured, sending his breath fanning across my face. I eagerly inhaled the air his lungs had expelled, without thought.

"I don't understand," I whispered.

I shivered as his hand cupped my cheek. "Isabella, you're mine now."

His hand slipped into my hair, where he fisted it among the locks. He jerked my head forward and I would have said something, but when his lips met mine, all coherent thought ceased. I gripped his hair, relishing in the softness between my fingers before I gently tugged.

He moaned into my mouth, but it was deep and feral like a caged animal breathing a rare sigh of relief. He shoved me back into the bed roughly with his own body, but his moves were controlled despite the wild tinge to them. He hovered over me with hungry eyes like a vulture gazing at his prey and trying to decide which portion to devour first.

I ran my hands down his chest, in awe of the hardness of it. I wondered if it allowed him to protect his heart better and if anyone had ever found a point of weakness in which to cross over. His hands stilled my own before bringing them together and pushing them into the pillow above my head.

I was trapped below him—a stranger I had met within a mental institute who had broken into my house and snuck into my bedroom to tell me insane things.

Why didn't I care? Why didn't any of this bother me? Did mental illness run through my family?

Edward's eyes gazed into my own, further trapping me and placing me at his mercy. He kissed below my left eye before moving to run his nose along the side of my neck. I shivered at the cool contact contrasting the heat of his hands against my palms. He was still restraining my hands above me.

He ran his bottom lip up my neck so that the inside of it created a light trail of moisture up to my ear. He blew in my ear, causing another violent shiver. "You're mine now, Isabella," he breathed.

His lips left my skin and I was about to voice my displeasure, when I felt a sharp pain in the side of my neck. At the same time I felt the pressure of his hand on my shorts and I jumped a bit at the combination of pain and pleasure, surprised by the strange breathy sound that escaped me.

The sound I had heard earlier when I pulled his hair resurfaced and I could feel the vibration of it rising from deep within his chest. The primal noise resembled a growl.

He moved his hand against me, creating a glorious friction that caused my skin to blister with a suffocating heat. My chest was heaving below his and my hands jerked at a yearning to move freely.

"Ah, ah, ah," Edward smirked devilishly, wagging a finger in front of my face in reprimand. I whimpered at the loss, feeling his other hand gripping mine tighter.

He slipped his hand under my shirt, laying it on my stomach and sliding it down painfully slow. For a moment I worried he would think I'm fat, but thought little more about it when he passed my navel and I released a giggle at the tickling sensation.

He brushed his hand along the same area and I sunk my teeth into my bottom lip as I tried and failed to withhold the giggles it elicited.

"I love that I can elicit certain reactions from you," he murmured.

He moved his hand to the edge of my shorts and I sucked in a breath at the feel of his skin there. He tucked two fingers from each of his hands under the waste band making it four in total—I counted as a way to distract myself—and gently slid them down.

He ran his hands up my legs, slowly moving closer to my thighs. I gripped my pillow tightly, finally realizing I was no longer restrained. Despite my new freedom of movement, I stayed still, worried that if I did shift, he would cease whatever he was doing.

Edward lightly touched the back of my thighs, bringing his face closer to the area that was screaming for attention. I sighed in relief at the pair of blue lace boy shorts I was wearing; glad I had just done laundry. Had this happened a couple days ago, I would be fretting over the lack of quality.

He placed a kiss on my knee, causing me to release another giggle. Seemingly satisfied with his exploration of my legs, he brought his hands up to my panties. Edward fingered the lacy edge for a moment, before slipping his hand below the fabric.

He was rubbing much like before, but it felt so much better. I was already panting when I felt one of his fingers slip inside. A weird feminine grunt left my lips as I felt him move another finger within me.

"You're mine, Isabella," he said again, hitting a secret place inside me that caused wave after wave of pleasure to ripple through me. It was like he had pressed a button—the period to his sentence.

That little bit of pressure had signified the end of his words tonight. Nothing more needed to be said.

Because despite the facts, I think I loved him and I knew I would never belong to anyone else.

I rebelled against the sounds of morning, choosing to roll over instead. My body collided with another and my eyes shot open to find the mysterious man of my dreams lying beneath me. His hand rose to my face and he stroked my cheek tenderly. I felt my heart swell at the sign of affection and quickly burrowed my face into his chest, which I just happened to realize was bare…

"Good morning to you too, Bella," he laughed.

I kept my head tucked into his chest, trailing my fingernails lightly over his skin. It hadn't escaped my notice that I didn't get the chance to touch his body last night.

"Look at me, Isabella."

I tilted my head up at the mention of my formal name, wondering why I found the way he said it so alluring. I usually hated to be called that and threw a fit when anyone did.

"Nothing has changed since you shut your eyes and embraced slumber. You are still mine." His eyes gazed into mine with a burning intensity like he was singeing the words into my very soul.

"Yes," I whispered in agreement.

His eyes widened in shock before narrowing. Too quick for me to realize what was happening, he was rolling our bodies over so that he was hovering above me.

"Isabella," he growled before attacking my lips with his. "Do you…have any…idea…how much I…want you?" he asked in between kisses.

He moved to my neck, pressing his lips along the same trail he created last night. As he kissed the mark he had left with his teeth, I felt a residual shiver course through my body.

"I apologize for the pain I caused you last night. I only felt the need to show others who you belong to." I shivered again, surprisingly thrilled by his words.

"Do you like that Isabella? Do you like that I have claimed you?"

"Yes," I breathed.

"You are dangerous," he murmured.

Abruptly he sat up, extending a hand which I took without thought. "I'm going to take you to breakfast," he grinned.

We entered the diner, hand in hand. The hostess with the syrup splattered faded yellow apron guided us to a booth in the corner, reciting the special with a welcoming smile before scurrying off to deliver a few orders. As we sat across from each other, I bit my lip at the thought of this being our first date.

He quirked an eyebrow at me, but I picked up my menu instead of answering. The cheap paper made a scratching noise as I unfolded it, so I knew from the silence on Edward's side of the table that he hadn't opened his yet.

I chanced a peek over the top of my menu, releasing an embarrassing squeak and ducking down quickly when he caught me looking. I was smiling at the sound of his deep chuckle when I heard another voice clear their throat.

"Hello! My name is Mike!" the waiter said as I lowered my menu, and he thrust his hand in front of me.

I took it reluctantly, wondering when waiters ever introduced themselves this way. I watched Edward's eyes zero in on our joined hands and tried not to freak out when his thumb ran across the back of my hand. Edward looked seriously perturbed by the movement, frowning at my hand even after I tucked it underneath the table.

"Bella," I mumbled quietly.

"Well Bella, what would a beautiful woman such as yourself like to start her morning?" he asked cheerfully.

I silently cursed myself as a blush spread across my cheeks. This Mike guy was really making me uncomfortable with his obvious comments and gestures. I was worried Edward would read too much into everything.

"We will have two specials," Edward answered him in an angry tone. It was still soft and melodious, but held a frightening quality to it.

"Are you sure?" he asked me, choosing to fully ignore Edward's presence.

My eyebrows rose in a clear—Really?—type of expression as he sat on the edge of our table with his back to Edward.

"You don't seem like the waffle and bacon type of girl to me," he mused. "No… I see you wrapping those pouty lips around a long thick—"

The sound and vibration of two fists colliding with the table top roughly caused both of us to jump. I looked up from my hands in my lap to see Edward glaring viciously at the waiter, his nostrils flared and his breath whistling out between the cracks in his teeth which were sunk into his bottom lip, as his chest heaved. The shimmer the light above created as it met his sharp green eyes making them look like a pair of swirling pools of fire.

"Michael? What in the hell is taking you so long? I have customers waiting for their food. If the couple isn't read to order, you need to—" The hostess's voice faded away as she took in the sight of Edward's fury with wide and fearful eyes. She seemed at a loss for words, darting her eyes between each of our faces. Edward's hatred, Mike's blanched face, and my…concern?

"Two specials with two glasses of orange juice," I rushed, hoping they would take the hint and leave.

The hostess nodded her head several times in a bobble-headed sort of way as she jotted down our order and ran off, tugging Mike along with her.

Once they were out of earshot, I looked at Edward. He was still seething in front of me, his whole body tensed, almost like he was trying to remain still. I brushed a hand through his hair, causing him to suddenly shift his piercing gaze onto me. I flinched a bit at the malice I saw there, regretting the involuntarily reaction instantly when pain shot through his eyes.

My hand was hovering midair, as I was too afraid to repeat the gesture, yet unwilling to lower it. He took my hand and placed it on the table in front of him, trailing his thumb over the same area Mike had repeatedly for several minutes. The skin was beginning to feel raw, his increasing pressure making me wonder if he was trying to clean my skin of Mike's touch. It seemed to calm him though, so I didn't voice my discomfort.

The food came and he hesitantly released my hand so that I could eat. Thankfully, the hostess hadn't sent Mike to bring us our food. I took a large gulp of my orange juice, sighing at the cooling of my throat, which had felt constricted after the incident with the waiter.

When I picked up my knife and fork to cut my pancakes, I noticed Edward's long fingers wrap around my glass of orange juice, rather than his own. I watched him curiously as he brought the rim to his lips, slipping the glass between them. My eyes widened at the way he stared intently back at me the entire time and how he had drank from the same spot I had.

I could hear the beat of my heart in my ears, finding the sight strangely sexy. He was sexy even when unmoving, but there was something about the indirect contact of my skin and his that turned me on. He placed the glass back in front of me and grabbed his silverware and began cutting up his own food.

I stared at the way the condensation left an imprint of his lips where he had taken a drink. He quirked an eyebrow at me and that was when I knew I had to do it. I picked up the same glass and repeated what he had done.

When I sat it back down I returned to my food, unable to ignore the way he was staring at me after I did that. He kept drinking from my glass, so we took turns until it was empty and we just moved onto his. He reached over to my plate, took a strip of bacon, and slid it into his mouth, despite the two that were untouched on his plate.

My face fell, and he laughed. "If it bothered you that much, you can have one of mine." He waved at his plate in an open invitation.

"I don't want one of yours. I want mine."

"What's wrong with my bacon?"

"It's soft and stringy and I like hard and crunchy," I blushed.

"You don't like my bacon?" he asked, his voice laced with hurt.

"Nope," I said, popping the "p".

We burst out laughing at the same time and I wished mine wasn't so loud, so that I could hear his better. The rest of the breakfast was spent in comfortable silence—I really liked how he wasn't one to fill the gaps of conversation with mindless chatter. Speaking for the sake of speaking often yielded boring or unintelligently voiced thoughts.

The hostess brought our bill over quietly, obviously wary over incurring Edward's wrath. I would have felt guilty, had it not been for my overwhelming desire to spend uninterrupted time with him. Edward even had the audacity to steal my other piece of bacon as I was taking my first bite of it. There would have been hell to pay if he hadn't leaned over the table and kissed me—effectively stopping any verbal lashing.

He was grinning at my awestruck expression, when his face fell. He padded his pockets a few times before releasing a very loud and aggravated huff. He ran his fingers through his hair repeatedly and slammed his head against the table.

"What's wrong?" I asked, wondering what I had done to irritate him so much.

"I don't have my wallet," he grumbled in frustration.

I sighed in relief. "Oh that's it? Don't worry about it. I have my purse." I was pulling out a twenty when his hand stopped me. I looked up and he was frowning—such a desolate expression for a face as perfect as his.

"I asked you to breakfast without a means to pay. There isn't anything okay about that."

"I was going to end up at least paying for my half, you know."

"Were you?" he asked, like the idea of my paying was ridiculous.

"Clearly, you don't know me very well," I said quietly and more to myself.

"On the contrary, Bella. I know everything about you," he said with a sense of…pride?

A thought occurred to me—one I should have been far more concerned about before now.

I knew nothing about Edward.

"Who are you?"

"Edward," he answered with furrowed brows.

"You know that's not what I meant," I huffed in irritation.

"How am I supposed to know what you mean when you refuse to ask clear questions," he smirked.

"Fine. I'll be blunt." I took a deep breath. "You claim to know everything about me, yet I know nothing about you."

"Was there a question amongst that collection of words?"

He was being a bit aggravating with his evasiveness. I needed to choose a specific question that he would not be able to talk his way out of answering.

"What were you doing in the psyche ward?"

He tensed and his previous amusement vanished. He was staring intently at the tabletop and I wondered if he would refuse to answer, or make up a lie. What he had to lie about, I was unsure of.

"Can we talk about this some place a little more private?" he asked quietly.

"Why?"

Was the truth so bad that he felt the need to drag it out? Was this some sort of "if I told you, I'd have to kill you" deal? Was he going to reveal the answer only to end my life moments later? If this was his plan, did I really need to know? Couldn't I just let it go and continue living happily in an oblivious life?

"Please, Bella. I can't do this here," he beseeched.

"Fine," I sighed, tossing the money on the table and sliding out of my seat.

We left quickly and didn't speak again until we were home.

I was going to offer him some coffee, when he broke the silence.

"I have lived in that mental hospital for almost my entire life."

He was standing at the window, gazing out at the woods along the house. My mother used to love hiking. Although I was quite small then, she used to let me sit on her shoulders while she pointed out different types of trees, plants, and animals. I remember how happy she was when she finally got a tiny bird to eat out of the palm of her hand.

"You were a patient?"

I wanted to be close to him, but thought better of it. He had moved away from me for a reason and perhaps I would think clearer with the space. There was something dark lingering over us—a large cloud gathering strength as what needed to be said remained unspoken.

"Yes."

I thought about how I met him and when he broke into my home. Had he been released the same day I had intended to take Charlie home? Was his presence in the outside world just a coincidence?

"Voluntary?" I asked.

He looked back at me with a cold expression. "No."

"Then how?"

"I couldn't stop thinking about you, Bella. I needed to see you again."

"So you just….left? Wouldn't someone notice one of their patients going missing?"

"There is no doubt in my mind that my escape is known among the staff," he said, looking at me strangely.

"What happened?" I asked, knowing he would understand the information I was seeking.

"What brought me to the care of Esme Cullen?"

I answered his rhetorical question with a nod. I wondered how the head nurse was taking the disappearance of one of her patients. Esme was one of the most caring people I had ever met. So often you hear about the mistreatment of people in places like the psyche ward, but you never hear about the dedicated and wonderful ones like Esme. She was the reason I didn't worry about Charlie's safety.

"My parents had marriage problems as far back as I can remember. After giving birth to me, my mother's physical fitness had sufficiently deteriorated. She was obsessed with her weight and tended to eat when she was particularly depressed about it. My father didn't have time to validate his love for her. He worked long shifts and usually returned long after dinner had gone cold."

Edward spoke with no emotion, his face sliding into an eerily calm mask. He flicked the words off his tongue as if they were bile.

"I found out what my father was really doing one night after my mother left for one of her Bingo nights. I wasn't even supposed to be home. I hated going to the Bingo Hall and being subjected to the cheek pinching and raisin kisses of the elderly women." He snorted—the sound was completely off.

"I was pretending to be sick in my room. The house was supposed to be empty for a couple hours, so I was surprised when I started hearing noises from the back room. I followed the sounds and I remember thinking it might be a monster. I saw my father being intimate with my old babysitter. My father told me to keep my mouth shut about what I had just witnessed. He even threatened me," he admitted this with detest.

"I didn't tell—I was too much of a coward. Of course, it wasn't kept secret for much longer. They weren't very smart about their secret affair. When my mother caught them, she didn't take it too well."

He stopped, looking at me with wide eyes. In this moment, he resembled a lost child.

"Keep going," I encouraged.

He eyed me closely. "I watched her take a screwdriver to his head so he would never think of another woman again. I watched her slice his throat so he would never utter a lie again. I watched her butcher Tanya—the other woman. I watched her kill herself afterward."

Unable to resist it any longer, I embraced him. I wrapped my arms around his waist, burying his face in the crook of my neck. He didn't protest my movements, but he stayed stiff in my arms for a while. I was still curious about his past and he hadn't actually answered my question of why exactly he was there, but I couldn't bear to make him say more.

The sheer innocence only a child could convey had shined in his gaze, eliciting a surprising maternal instinct within me. The trauma he experienced as a child was heartbreaking to hear. I knew what it felt like to lose a parent, but I couldn't imagine having to watch.

Eventually we moved to the couch and I pulled Edward's head down to lie in my lap. He didn't resist this as much as he had the hug. I stroked his hair as we watched the day progress through the window—the sky growing darker and more violent as time went on.

"Bella."

I looked down at his face, admiring the way the light hit his cheeks and strong jaw. He was truly a glorious sight to behold and I felt unbelievably lucky that he chose to share his soul with me today.

"Yes, Edward?"

"Your legs are stiff."

"Are they?" I shifted my legs a bit, groaning at the soreness.

"I'd day so," he grinned up at me. "It seems I know you better than you know yourself."

I blushed, rolling my eyes at him as he stood and helped me up. We clasped hands and climbed the stairs together, separating only to use the bathroom and climb into bed, where we connected once more.

"Sleep, my Bella," he whispered as I drifted off.

I sighed deeply, grateful that my subconscious decided not to torture me last night with images of Edward cowering in the corner as his mother murdered his father and mistress and killed herself.

My palms searched the folds of my blankets for Edward's skin, but came up empty. I opened my eyes and frowned at the empty spot beside me. I slept so soundly last night that I hadn't heard Edward leave. I am sure a bomb could have gone off too and I wouldn't have woken up.

After making a quick trip to the bathroom, I decided to go look for Edward downstairs. Maybe he couldn't sleep and didn't want to wake me up. He was probably waiting for me right now. I quietly ran down the stairs, eager to be with him again.

I skidded to a halt as I entered the kitchen, gasping at the sight before me. Lying on my mother's peach floral tile floor was the body of the waiter from the diner. There was a gaping hole in the side of his head, creating a little peep hole into his brain and a slice beneath his chin—the sheer perfection of the long line reminding me of Sweeney Todd.

There was blood everywhere—seeping out of his wounds and bathing his blonde hair and white collared shirt in red liquid.

Edward was standing at the sink, scrubbing his hands roughly with the lemon flavored dish soap, making the water run red. The green sponge against his stained palms made me think of Christmas.

Apart from his hair and slightly crazed menstruations, he looked unbelievably kempt.

Edward slowly turned, locking me into place with his desperate gaze. There was a dead body on my kitchen floor and the killer was staring at me, yet I didn't even try to move.

"Bella?" he said my name softly.

He began to approach me and I tensed, wondering if he was about to kill me too.

"It's okay, Bella," he said, extending a hand tentatively, like he was trying to coax a frightened bunny from hopping away.

I stared at his bloodied hands for a moment, reminded of the way cherry flavored Kool-Aid could do that to your upper lip when you take a drink.

I ran through the door and straight to my mommy's arms.

"What's wrong sweetie?"

"They…they w-wouldn't," I hiccupped as the tears streamed down my cheeks.

"Who honey?"

"The…the kids wouldn't…" I trailed off with another sob.

"What wouldn't they do?" she asked, rubbing my back.

"They w-wouldn't let me play with their Play-Doh!" I finally cried out, before burying my face in her chest. Jessica's parents had just bought her a huge tub of Play-Doh, but she decided not to share—with me, anyway. She gave everyone a piece but me… I wrapped my fists in her shirt, still crying, but from anger rather than despair.

"Oh honey it's okay," she cooed. "Would it make you feel better if I went and got Mary?"

I thought about my dolly, who was also my best friend. I loved her like a sister—Mommy even said we could be sisters—but I really wanted some Play-Doh.

I shook my head at her. "Can we go to the toy store?" I asked, giving her my cutest and most pleading smile.

"Your father has the car and it's too far to walk. I'm sorry sweetie," she said sadly.

My face fell. "Oh okay," I mumbled dejectedly.

"Oh!" I jumped in surprise at the sound of her voice. "I know just the thing!"

She sat me down and I followed her as she ran into the kitchen, wondering what she was looking for as she banged around the cupboards. We had already eaten at the park—Jessica's mom had made bologna sandwiches and apple juice.

I sat at the table, watching her movements. She wouldn't tell me what she was making, only that it was something special for me. Every time I tried to tell her that I was too full to eat anything else, she would just laugh and continue working.

"Ta-da!" she announced as she placed a plate in front of me.

I stared at the red goop doubtfully, no longer worried about being too full, but whether she would really expect me to eat it.

"What is that?" I asked, reaching to poke the strange substance. My finger sunk into it and I quickly pulled it out with a squeak. "Is it alive?" I shouted.

Mommy just laughed at me before picking up the mound and mashing it in her hands. "It's not alive, silly. It's Play-Doh!"

"It doesn't look like Play-Doh…"

"Okay," she huffed. "It isn't. It's better."

I looked at her like she was crazy, wondering if she had bumped her head.

"This is special Kool-Aid Play-Doh. Only special little girls are allowed to play with it. Like you."

"I'm special?"

"Yes," she grinned.

I smiled back. "Thanks Mommy. I love you."

She gave me a warm hug. "I love you too, Bella."

She released me as I began to play with her token of love. I made many different things, but soon realized I had a fascination with "pretend" cooking.

"Oh guess what? You can eat it too."

Despite the faded red color that wasn't shiny like Jessica's and the slightly rougher texture, I loved my Kool-Aid Play-Doh.

I also made sure to bring a tiny Kool-Aid Play-Doh apple with me everyday for lunch, laughing at Jessica when she tried to copy me and got in trouble.

You aren't supposed to eat Play-Doh.

"Bella?" he placed his hands on either side of my face. I shivered at the ice cold temperature, realizing he must have been washing his hands with cool water.

"What…" I licked my lips, "What happened?"

"I think you already know the answer to that question."

"But why?"

He looked at me like I was an idiot—like the reason he had killed a human being was as obvious as a simple addition problem. The problem was…I couldn't put two and two together.

"I had to do it. After the way he treated you in the diner…"

"That was nothing—"

"He made crude comments to a lady. That is extremely disrespectful and I simply could not tolerate it."

"Couldn't tolerate it? You didn't like his words, so you killed him? Don't you think that's a little extreme!?"

"You seem upset about this…"

"Of course I'm upset! You took another life—for something trivial no less!" I vaguely wondered if he would change his mind about not killing me if I kept shouting at him.

"Did you have feelings for him?" he asked in a broken voice.

I lowered my hands which had been flailing about during my ranting. I ran my fingers through his hair, scratching lightly with my nails.

"No."

He made a strange sound at my touch, almost like a deep purr—it made me giggle. His head snapped up and he regarded me with his crooked smile, sending my heart aflutter.

I should be worried about this. I should be scared and weeping in the corner—someone is decomposing in my kitchen a few feet in front of me for goodness sakes.

"We'll need to dispose of that, won't we?" I finally asked, pointing at the lump of fat and bones that used to wait tables at the only diner in town.

He looked at Mike and then back at me, a disapproving expression on his face. "Why don't you go upstairs and clean up while I…clean up in here?"

"Don't be silly," I said, stubbornly.

I wasn't so dainty that I couldn't help him at least lift the body. I reached for Mike's corpse, trying to carry him by myself since Edward was just standing there. As my hands met the soaked fabric of his clothes, I remembered something crucial.

I didn't do well around blood.

The rusty smell of Mike's blood filled my nostrils and I quickly released him, gagging at my dirty hands. Edward rushed over to me, supporting my weight as I slumped down. I was going to pass out and I was very aware that I would be lying next to a dead person if I did.

"Edward," I half-moaned as my stomach started to churn and the world around me started to blur.

My legs gave out, but I never made contact with the floor. I could hear Edward's heartbeat as he cradled me against his chest with one arm under my legs and the other under my neck. He carried us upstairs and sat me on the toilet, making sure I was leaning well enough on the sink before creating a bath.

He stripped me and for a moment I worried about him seeing my naked body in the absence of lust. Being horny is kind of like being lost in a desert. The first inkling of moisture you see is like the Holy Grail. The odd shape of the bottle of water doesn't matter and often looks almost good enough to eat.

Edward's gaze didn't linger in any one spot, keeping me from feeling uncomfortable. Actually the lack of embarrassment probably had more to do with the fact that I was a little preoccupied trying not to puke everywhere.

He lowered me into the tub and my body arched a bit at the hot water. His eyes widened at the involuntary reaction and he stared at me for several minutes before reaching up to pull my hair over my shoulders.

"So beautiful," he murmured.

I took deep breaths as the warmth of the water and Edward's gentle touch lulled me into a sleepy state. He started with my hands first, washing the blood off my palms with less strength than he had his own. I wanted to tell him it would never come off if he cleaned them so softly, but I didn't have the will to break the comfortable silence.

I kept my gaze pointed at the ceiling, knowing that the color of the water would probably make me sicker if I looked at it. Edward moved to my cheeks, coating them lightly with the soap on his thumb. He stared into my eyes, communicating the words I yearned for him to say, but was too much of a coward to ask for.

His touch was feather light and I began to blush, hoping he would take the reaction as an effect of the high temperature of the bath water. By the way he was smirking at me, I was sure he knew the real reason.

He moved to my hair, spreading the shampoo throughout my locks in reverence. His hands never wavered from my head and I had a fleeting thought of whether he desired me in that way at all.

"You are glorious, but this is neither the time nor the place," he grinned crookedly at me.

I blushed deeply, wondering how he had known what I was thinking.

Everything was worn, faded—like someone had dimmed my vision. Everything was frail and ghostly—wavering between life and death. Everything was quiet.

The room screamed confinement as I walked passed the people content to remain fixed, stationary parts of the background.

I noticed a woman seated in a wheel chair facing the wall, mumbling something I couldn't discern. I began to move closer and as I did, the stench of piss and sweat swished its way up my nostrils and through my nasal passages.

"I can't see." It was a faint whine and as she exhaled it, rancid breath accompanied the array of ghastly scents.

Still I proceeded—my curiosity and need to help this poor woman overriding all other thought and instinct. Now that I could see her more clearly, I took in her dilapidated appearance. She wore a loose fitting blue sweater and white slacks—both caked with spilled food and old stains.

Her eyes were shut and her arms outstretched as she grasped empty air in her scarred palms. White bandages yellowed with age were wrapped around her wrists which had collected a murky brown color.

"I can't see," she whistled through the gap in her teeth which were rotted and covered in plague.

"Open your eyes," her forehead wrinkled as I said this.

"I can't see," she repeated with a frown.

"You can, just open your eyes," I urged.

Her eyelids took ages to lift like the lashes had been sealed to her cheeks with a powerful adhesive. Finally they were open, but instead of seeing her eyes, all I could see where two gaping holes.

"I can't see!" she shrieked and I felt myself getting dizzy at the sound.

The room was turning and turning until I found myself hitting something hard. When I retained focus of my surroundings, I realized I was sitting in a wheelchair. I tried to stand, but found I was unable to move. I looked down at my legs and was shocked to see a pair of white slacks where my jeans had once been.

I was wearing that same blue sweater and my wrists were bandaged with the same weathered fabric and the same murky brown stains.

"It's all your fault."

I looked up to see Charlie hovering over me with a hateful gleam in his eye.

"I didn't mean to kill her," I croaked.

"You ruined my life." He was reaching down and I cringed as his large meaty hands covered my neck.

"Please Daddy," I coughed as he started to squeeze.

"An eye for an eye."

His thumbs pressed into the middle of my throat, the thick and hard nails digging into my skin and likely drawing blood. My airway was being forcibly closed off and I could feel my lungs pulsing in my chest with frantic need for sustenance. My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head like a Halloween toy.

"You deserve this, Bella." I glanced at the new voice, hoping the owner would save me.

It was her—the woman I had dreamed of seeing again in the light of day, the woman I loved more than I could bear. Her once luscious hair that shined was caked in deep burgundy blood, her forehead caved in a bit as if someone had bashed it with a hammer. Her leg was twisted at an odd angle and there was a bloody gauche across her cheek. The warm glow of her skin was gone.

She was dead.

A tear trickled down my cheek at the sight of her. If she wanted air, she could have mine. If she wanted blood, she could have mine.

If she wanted life, she could have mine.

"Bella!"

I could feel my body being shaken and I jumped a little as I returned to awareness. My body was heaving with hacking coughs so forceful I was surprised chunks of my lungs weren't littered across the bed.

Edward was soothing me with quiet murmurs as I tried to calm down. A thin layer of sweat coated my skin, making me feel dirty and impossibly more wrong. The nightmare had confirmed what I had always believed, but feared.

My parents blamed me for my mother's death.

Logically, I know the dead can't communicate to the living through dreams. I know my subconscious was projecting my guilt. I know this, but it doesn't change what I believe.

"What were you dreaming about?" he asked softly.

I relayed the contents of my nightmare, unable to refrain from describing it with vivid detail. I was a glutton for pain, purposely drudging up and submerging myself into the world I had just escaped. Edward seemed to prefer complete honesty and asked that I wouldn't edit. Still, his frown only deepened as I continued spilling the manifestation of my guilt.

"Her death wasn't your fault."

I scoffed at him before rolling out of bed. I was in desperate need of a shower to rinse away the sweat that was making my skin sticky. I was at the door when he spoke again.

"Bella, it wasn't your fault. It was an accident."

I touched the doorframe, staring at my fingers rather than back at him.

"It's okay Edward. I've known the truth for years now. I don't need you to try to make me feel better by lying to me."

"I'm not lying to you. What happened to your mother was an accident. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time—"

"Because of me. Because she wanted to make my birthday special." I spoke the last part quietly, making it unlikely that he heard. "She would be alive if I had never been born."

When I returned he apologized for upsetting me and smiled when I did in turn, but it was off. Everything seemed off after that nightmare. The fact that I had it every night since didn't help matters.

He stopped speaking to me, unless it was imperative—like when he needed to know what I wanted to eat, or if I was ready for bed. He continued sleeping beside me every night and always asked about my nightmares when I awoke in the middle night.

He was always there—watching and waiting to calm me down. If I didn't know any better, I might have started to think he didn't sleep.

When I would recount my nightmares to him, he would frown in that same way he had the first night and try to comfort me until I fell back asleep. We didn't speak of what had happened the first night and he never repeated the words he had said.

The side-stepping and silence couldn't continue forever though and it didn't.

"Bella, stop!" a distressed voice yelled.

I felt weight pushing me into the mattress and my hands being restrained by my sides.

"What happened?" I breathed, the feeling of my father constricting my air supply lingering even as I regained consciousness.

"You need to stop blaming yourself for her death. It's killing you," he said in a broken voice.

Our noses were inches apart and he was staring imploringly, desperately into my eyes.

"You need to let me go," I mumbled, wanting nothing more than to rinse the nightmare off my skin.

"Not until you accept the truth. Your birth did not cause your mother's death."

"It did," I laughed at him, almost hysterically.

He surprised me by kissing me then and I felt his irritation and anguish in the movement of his lips. Just as I was beginning to forget everything that had happened and really get into it, he rolled off of me.

Slowly, I got up too and walked around the bed to where he was sitting with his head in his hands.

"I'll be back in a bit," I whispered as I touched his shoulder before leaving the room.

When I turned on the bathroom light, I gasped at the sight of myself in the mirror. There were deep scratches along my neck, most of them bleeding with chunks of skin missing. I looked down at my nails, noticing the blood and skin underneath them. Now I understood why my throat still hurt long after I had awoke.

I threw up several times before I made it into the shower. The water stung my skin for a while before eventually reaching a wonderful numb. I knew from past injuries the state your body could reach if you didn't take care of open wounds.

I removed the first aid kit from below the sink and bandaged myself up, apprehensive of Edward seeing me like this. Now that I knew about the scratches, his words from before made a lot more sense. I wondered if this had ever happened before, but doubted it.

When I came out of the bathroom, Edward was gone.

He didn't leave a note. He didn't call—how would he know my number anyway?

I tried not to think about it. I tried not to think about how lonely or empty I felt. I tried not to think about my birthday or the car accident or my nightmares. I tried not to think about the guilt.

I drifted around the house listlessly—feeling more like a shell than I had since I was sent away after my father lost it. Edward had awakened something inside of me—something deep and long forgotten.

My heart.

After my mother died, I didn't think I would ever love someone like that again. I was wrong.

As good as being in love felt, right now…it was killing me. It was like I had lost my mother all over again, except this time I didn't even have the illusion of company. I didn't really feel anything, I guess.

I was numb.

I didn't remember walking out here.

I was in the backyard, standing on top of a large brown mound called Mike Newton.

Here I was being heartbroken over Edward leaving me alone for almost a whole week and poor Mike Newton was six feet under being eaten by maggots. My heart was sputtering with broken beats for Mike's killer as his stayed silent and rotted.

I wondered if Mike was an organ donor and if Edward checked. A heart is not an easy thing to come by. Though I suppose the manner in which he died probably made most of his remains useless. Would a drill to the temple and a slash of the throat make the heart worthless?

I wasn't a doctor or a mortician or whoever figures this out, but it still seemed wasteful.

I thought about what his mother had done and what he did to Mike Newton. If I were a psychologist, I would probably be hounding him about that.

I thought about my foster parents and "the wife" as I called her. She could find a use for just about anything.

Bloody entrails? No problem! I imagined her pulling long fleshy ropes out of Mike's belly button and stringing them up around the house like streamers or tinsel.

Coping with the nightmares became significantly harder without him there to make me feel better. Consequently, I slept less, instead opting to make numerous pots of coffee throughout the day. I should probably stop by the store to check out their selection of energy drinks.

I walked through the door, blinking at the florescent lighting in irritation. Along with giving up sleep, I had also been keeping the lights in the house dim. This of course only made staying awake that much more difficult, and the coffee and energy drinks crucial.

I surveyed the shelves, trying to decide if I was a Monster, a Rockstar, or a Red Bull. I remembered seeing a commercial about Red Bull giving you "wings" so I opted for a couple cases of that. At this point I really did wish I had to work for my money because the endless hours alone in my house were really getting on my nerves.

The line was short—just an old woman counting change out of her little coin purse. Such a cliché, I thought. Did she live with thirty cats too?

"I'm sure he'll turn up. You know how young boys are," the woman at the register told her.

"Not my grandson. He was supposed to help me make cookies for the bake sale the kids were having," the old woman said doubtfully.

"Mike is a young available bachelor. It was bound to happen wasn't it? I'm sure he'll get over his fit of rebellion and be home apologizing before you know it," the woman assured her.

I froze, knowing that despite their lack of mention of his last name, I knew exactly where the man they were talking about was. I gripped my purse tightly and listened.

"No, not my grandson. He hasn't even showed up at the diner for any of his shifts. Something is wrong."

"Well that's strange, but I'm telling you. It's just a phase. He'll be home before you know it."

I felt sick as the old woman tried to smile and gathered her things. The guy helped his grandmother for crying out loud! I wanted to stop her and tell her she was right—that her grandson was never coming back. I wanted to tell her that he was rotting under a pile of dirt in my backyard.

"Will that be it for you, Hun?" the woman asked.

"Yea," I mumbled, scratching at my neck.

She looked at me strangely and I wondered if she thought I was a crack addict or something. The scratches had left marks on my skin which I had covered up with a nice fluffy scarf.

"There you go, Hun. Have a nice night."

I mumbled something back and left the store, noticing the old woman standing by her car. I ran up to her.

"Need any help?" I asked, feeling like I owed her something.

"Oh would you mind holding these? I can't seem to find my keys," she said, handing me her bags.

I held them for her, along with the words dangling on the tip of my tongue.

She fished her keys out of her purse and unlocked her door. After putting her groceries in the trunk, I stood beside her in uncertainty.

"Thank you so much. I just seem to be all over the place," she apologized, making me feel like dirt.

"No problem," I mumbled back.

She paused before getting into her car. "What's your name?"

"Bella."

"Well thank you, Bella," she smiled and drove away.

My keys clanged loudly in the metal bowl I had thrown them in, further illustrating the emptiness of the house. After putting all the drinks in the refrigerator, I walked upstairs and crawled into bed. Somehow staying awake and thinking about the old woman who would never get to see her grandson, made my nightmares seem less terrible.

I woke with a start, the remnants of my nightmare evident in the twist of my sheets and the ache of my throat. I hadn't inflicted pain on myself since the night Edward left, but it didn't erase the phantom soreness of my father's hands.

I heard the distinct sound of power tools echoing throughout the horse. The sound of curdling flesh made my heart sing as I realized something.

Edward was back.

The fact that he was likely destroying another individual became inconsequential. If murder kept him here, I would gladly take part in his killing spree. I was that desperate to keep him by my side.

I entered the kitchen much as I had when I discovered Mike. The collapsed body in the corner was not important as I launched myself at Edward. I wrapped my legs around his waist, feeling his bloody palms soak through my jeans as he held onto me.

My heart sewed itself right back up as he kissed me.

"I missed you."

Edward didn't speak, but smiled crookedly, turning us around so that the back of my body was leaning on the counter. Passed him, I could see blood splattered across the walls and on the floor—all originating from the poor soul rotting in the corner. The stranger's body was covered by a large sheet. This seemed odd since he had just left Mike out in the open, gazing vacantly at the ceiling.

"Why did you leave?" I asked, worried I would drive him away again.

"I had a few things to take care of."

"I can see that," I laughed, glancing at the body once more.

I didn't condone the killing, but there was something about being in Edward's arms that made me absolutely giddy, despite the circumstances. I wondered what this person had done. I slid down from the counter and walked by Edward.

"Who is it anyway?"

I was standing in front of the massive lump now. The person's entire form was concealed except one arm. It was meaty and hairy, so I figured it was a man. I bent down to lift the sheet when Edward stopped me.

"Don't." His jaw was set, his eyes serious.

This reaction only fueled my curiosity as he pulled my hand away from the fabric.

What is he trying to hide?

I looked back down at the exposed arm—examining it more closely this time. I stared at the large fingernails pushed into his skin and the wrinkles of his joints until I stopped on one finger. Around it was a dirty gold ring.

I knew this man.

I tore my hand from Edward so quickly he didn't have time to stop me as I kneeled and removed the sheet. Staring back at me was a pair of empty eyes I had known since I was five.

This was my father.

Edward had killed my father.

"What did you do?" I whispered, staring at my father's corpse in horror.

He didn't answer.

"What did you do!?" I shrieked—a sound so belligerent and unnatural that I could scarcely believe it had come from me.

"I did this for us."

"For us? You killed my father! The only person I had left in the world and you killed him!"

"You have me," he said quietly, moving closer.

"No! Stay away from me!"

"But Bella I—"

"You're a monster!" I screamed, scooting myself backward so that my body pressed into the corner—almost painfully.

Edward stopped moving then, so I slowly crept over to my father who was laying inches away.

"Daddy?" I stroked his bloody cheek. "Please don't leave me," I begged. "I need you."

I was shaking him roughly, trying to elicit some sort of reaction. "Daddy?"

He stayed perfectly still.

I felt something hit my head hard and I crashed into darkness.

When I came to, there was a throbbing pain in my head—thumping away as I lolled my head from side to side. I groaned as the stiffness of my bones and my inability to move my hands due to the thick rope binding them.

"Are you going to kill me?" I asked, squinting and looking at him out of one blurry eye. He was standing a few feet away with the power drill in one hand and the blade in the other—watching me.

"Yes," he answered quietly.

I cleared my throat. I wondered if I would get a final request before I died. If I did, I almost think I would ask for a glass of water. My throat was really scratchy. I sighed dejectedly, already knowing what I would ask for.

"You aren't struggling."

I looked up at his face to see a frown coupled with his furrowed brows. "Nope."

"Why not?"

"What's the point?" I snorted.

"What's the point?" he asked angrily, shaking the power drill at me. "You should be fighting!"

"Do you like it when your victims struggle?"

His face distorted in a horrible expression of sadness. Despite my current position and what he was about to do, I truly regretted what I had said. My words seemed to have really hurt him.

"I don't want to kill you." He brushed the back of his hand along my cheek and I couldn't withhold the tear that fell. He retracted his hand quickly, like the salty water had stung him deeply.

Avoiding his gaze, I glanced around the room, unwillingly stopping on the body still on the floor. Edward had repositioned the sheet to completely cover him, but I still knew. I could still remember the vacancy in his eyes.

"Why?" I whimpered.

"The voices…they told me to do it."

"The voices?"

"I never told you why I was in the mental hospital." He crouched down, setting the blade on the tile floor, but keeping a hold of the drill. "I hear voices in my head. The doctors say it's schizophrenia—that it's just my imagination—but I know the truth."

He scraped the end of the power drill along the tile floor, creating an earsplitting shriek. I cringed back, unable to plug my ears.

"They're real."

I stared at the long scratch he had just created on my mother's peach floral tile floor.

"Different ones come and go, but there are two that never leave. They're there when I'm awake, when I'm asleep, even when I dream," he said with a desperate edge to his voice.

"Why him?" I asked again, staring at the blood soaked sheet.

"He tried to kill you, Bella," he glared at his form. "He abandoned you when you needed him most. He left you all alone, but you never stopped loving him. And when you tried to take care of him, he tried to strangle you to death," he spat venomously. "He is the vilest person I have ever met and he deserved death for the pain he has caused you."

"But you're still going to killing me," I said quietly.

"Yes."

"Why?" I asked because I needed to know. I needed to know why the man I love is going to end my life.

"Because it has to be done. Because Alice says it has to be done and Jasper won't allow you to live."

"Alice?"

He tapped his temple with the end of the drill. "Alice sees everything. She shows me things before they happen. They always happen. She showed me what would occur if Charlie lived. I couldn't let…I couldn't let it come to pass. I had to interfere. I had to stop it from coming true."

"Alice adores you, but if you continue living you will turn me in and Jasper cannot allow that."

"I wouldn't—"

"She has seen it," he stressed, squeezing his eyes shut in frustration. "She has shown me the vision. You will betray me."

I reflected over everything that had happened since I returned to Forks. Despite where we were now, I could never regret coming here. I could never regret meeting Edward.

"Jasper?"

"Jasper…he's always so thirsty. He tells me to do things…horrible things. He makes me feel it—the thirst. The desire for mayhem and blood. He makes me want it so bad it hurts and I can't resist."

He opened his eyes and gazed at me intently. "He wanted to kill you. He has never wanted to kill someone so much in his life."

"But you didn't," I pointed out.

"No," he replied with furrowed brows. "The voices tend to be much quieter when I'm around you. It was not without effort to refrain though…"

"I'm sorry for causing you so much pain." No matter what I do, I'm always hurting the ones I love.

"It was worth it."

He stood up, taking the blade and drill with him. "It's time," he said, resigned.

I stared into his eyes as he moved closer, never allowing his gaze to waver from my face. I wanted him to look at me while he killed me.

He brought the blade up to my throat, his face shadowed as the reflected light and background of blood made his hair shine like the Sun. I stared into his eyes alight with a flame I had never known.

"I love you," I choked, the tears streaming down my face.

He paused, the metal pressing feather light into my neck. He stared at me for a while before he finally spoke.

"What?"

"I love you," I repeated with more force.

"You can't. I'm going to kill you." He applied pressure to the blade to illustrate his point.

"I don't care."

He twisted his neck to the side, sending a sickening crack into the silence. I closed my eyes, waiting for the pain. I decided I was wrong and maybe it would be best not to see it happen.

I couldn't hear anything besides the pathetic thumping in my chest and our labored breathing. Several minutes passed without the sting of the blade or the force of the drill at my temple, so I opened my eyes.

Edward was still staring at me as his eyes slid shut and he cracked his neck again. He slowly stepped backward, stopping where he had crouched earlier.

"No," he said through gritted teeth.

I was crying now, almost begging for him to end it. I wanted to get this over with. I was tired of the guilt and watching him suffer. The fact that he didn't return my affection was practically making me suicidal.

"No!" he yelled, his eyes flying open in fury.

His fingers flexed around the drill and he twirled the blade in his hand. His body tensed, making him appear as stone.

"I love you, Bella," he smiled crookedly before bringing the blade across his throat in one swift thrust.

I watched in horror as he fell onto his knees and collapsed onto the floor. His blood oozed from his body, coating my mother's peach floral tile floor with crimson.

When the police found me I wasn't bound to a chair, but sitting in the corner rocking back and forth. There was blood everywhere, like I had splashed around in my father's wounds. They found Mike Newton buried in the backyard with the same trauma inflicted on his body.

My fingerprints were found on both murder weapons and their blood on my clothes and under my nails. They carried out three bodies that night. My father and Mike Newton were the first to go.

Then me.

Edward's body was never found.

There were no records of him ever being in Forks.

He didn't exist.

They took me to the psych ward because I was clearly unstable. They sat me in a wheelchair because I refused to move and dressed me in white slacks and a blue sweater because my clothes were bloody and were considered evidence. They bandaged up my wrists because I had cut them. They think the guilt over killing two people had gotten to me, so I tried to kill myself.

The evidence was stacked against me in court, but due to my mental condition, they sent me here. They said mental illness probably ran in my family and brought up my father's state before death. Apparently the trauma caused by my father's attack on my life had triggered the otherwise dormant illness. They said Charlie had gone missing earlier that day. The only reason the police had found me so quickly was because the hospital wanted to see if I had taken him home.

I was reduced to my father's state of being, staring blankly at the wall or out the window—depending on where they turned me. They kept me away from the other patients, weary of the possible repercussions of having a murderer in the room.

"It's a beautiful day, Bella," Esme said as she pulled the curtains open. The Sun was making a rare appearance in Forks today.

"How are you, honey?" she asked. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a tight bun, hiding the caramel color with its compactness.

I didn't answer—I hadn't spoken a word since they found me. I kept chanting "Edward" in a broken mantra. When I found out he was just a figment of my imagination, I shut my mouth and hadn't opened it since.

Bella, you really need to eat, Edward said in disapproval.

Why? What was the point of eating? So that I could live longer as nothing more than a placeholder?

You have me now, Bella. We can be together forever here.

My lips lifted a little and Esme caught this. She was always so observant.

"Oh Bella! I'm glad you're in a good mood. I know exactly what would make you even happier!" she said cheerfully.

See how happy you made Esme by that involuntary gesture? You need to stop punishing yourself.

Esme reached behind her and pulled out a flower. I focused my eyes on the red, staring for quite some time before working out what it was. In Esme's hand was a red rose with a black ribbon tied around its stem.

"This came for you today," she added as she watched me examine it. I rarely looked at anything anymore, so my interest seemed to spur her on. "It must be from a secret admirer," she sang.

She placed it in my lap and for the first time since they took me away, I moved my hands to finger the petals. I picked it up, twisting it in my fingers much as I had the day I met Edward.

I remember that night fondly, I could see Edward smirking.

Around the stem was an identical black satin ribbon, tied in an identical knot. The only difference was the small folded piece of paper one side of the bow was looped through.

"I didn't read it," Esme said as she unloaded the food cart. "No harm ever came from a note."

I slowly opened it.

I'm coming for you, Bella, Edward said in tandem with the words as I read them.

***