Author's Notes: Thank you so much for reading and for sending me your reviews. Everyone has been so generous and supporting and its wonderful to see. As this is my first fanfic and my first writing I've shared, I'd love to know what all of you like the best about this story. I know you're all clambering for more, and many of you have been worried that I won't continue the story. Those of you worried about that, don't. The entire story is written from start to finish and just needs editing and beta reading. If you're an experienced beta and/or author and have a fairly fast turn around, drop me a note. I may accept another beta to get the chapters out to you all faster. Thank you again and I really hope you enjoy!

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.

Prologue

What is pain, really? Is pain the sensation of unpleasantness in mind or body? Is pain merely something that is difficult for us to bear? Is there the possibility that the experience of pain can bring about changes in ourselves that make us greater than what we were? Than what we are? I think so. I've experienced more than my share of pain, I think. Pain killed me once and I like to think that I came out of the experience stronger than I was before.

Though it is the polar opposite of pain, I wonder if joy affects us in much the same way. Joy does as pain, takes us within itself and spits us out on the other side as a new person. Are we changed for the better through either of these experiences just the same?

Chapter One – Phoenix to Forks

As much as I hated the small town that was Forks, Washington, I knew this was the right decision to make. The cold didn't matter anymore, and it was getting harder and harder to hide the results of my missing time from my mother, who was far too perceptive when she was actually paying attention. She'd nearly had a breakdown when I disappeared, and I hated leaving so soon after, but hiding the results of my transformation in Phoenix was becoming impossible. There were only so many sick days that I could take from school when the sun was out in Phoenix, and she was starting to obsess over me being 'sick' so much.

I'd never been a rebellious teenager and blaming her marriage to Phil for my decision to run away, then move away, was not a lie I expected her to believe for long. Thank goodness she was too worried about me to ponder too much that my lie really wasn't a logical one. But it also gave me a good reason to get her to agree that my moving to Forks and living with Charlie was really in my best interests.

I really didn't have any problems with Phil, but unfortunately for him, he was the easiest scapegoat in this entire fiasco. Actually, Phil was great for my mom. He loved her impetuous and unpredictable ways and she adored him right back. I didn't have to worry about leaving her so long as Phil was there to make sure there was gas in her car and food in the cupboards.

So, here I was, on a plane to Port Angeles, glad that I was able to schedule the flight during a day where there wasn't a whole lot of sun in Phoenix. The plane ride: that was a whole new experience in torture. Being stuffed into tight quarters, with delicious-smelling people nearly in my lap, was testing the limits of my self-control. It was easier to control this desperate need for blood when it was my darling, erratic mother. I had an aversion to dealing with even the thought of hurting my mother, but crowds of harried airline travelers were so much easier to want dead. It was much harder not to bite people who irritated me, tried to shove me and constantly got into my personal space.

However, I was determined. I was not like the thing that had made me into this. It was one of the things I wondered about over and over: why he had left me alive? I should have died out in the desert that night, and I had no idea why I had instead been left to burn, to return home to my mother with this horrible need for blood. I had found, however, that the need could be tempered. I did not have to be the monster that my attacker was. It never really went away, the burning in my throat didn't stop, but I could resist the draw so long as I was stuffed full of animal blood.

Any rabbits, foxes and coyotes which had been in danger of over-population had been dealt with for a little while in the Arizona deserts, thanks to me. It wasn't all that tasty, but it made sure that there wasn't a trail of drained people in my wake. Last night, I'd snuck out of the house and made one last foray into the desert, making sure that I was not only full, but over-fed, trying to deal with the long flight the best way I could.

As the plane taxied into the gate, I waited impatiently for everyone to disembark, not wanting to draw attention to myself if I rushed out. Instead, I sat quietly and held my breath. Keeping my eyes downcast, I made my way to the nearest restroom to check my eyes. One factor of my change was difficult to disguise; my eyes had turned a bright crimson red, while contacts were a solution, they dissolved within the space of hours. This made it very difficult to hide the unnatural color.

Black contacts took my eyes to a rather muddy brown color. This was not close what they were before, but dark enough that I didn't stand out as being non-human. Lucky for me, the next obvious change wasn't so obvious. My skin had been almost vampire pale before the attack and a bit of light makeup over my face and neck kept my mother from being too suspicious. The makeup didn't help at all in the sun, I glittered like a socialite's jewels, but it did help give a little more color to my skin.

My father was unobservant enough that I was hoping the contacts were the only thing I was going to have to use to disguise myself. But the contacts were very expensive considering how often I had to replace them. High school students didn't make a lot in the first place and I'd had to quit my job after the attack, unsure of my control. My savings had taken a sizable dent for the sake of ugly mud-brown eyes.

As I stood in front of the mirror, I quickly glanced into my eyes, too fast for anyone around me to see, and saw that my contacts had melted away. I could tell when my vision wasn't obscured by the thin plastic, but I tried to not replace them until they were completely gone. I reached into my bag and pulled out another set of contacts. No sense in scaring Charlie, who was sure to be waiting for me in the police cruiser in the loading zone outside.

They felt like a huge chunk of plastic wedged in my eyes when I put the contacts back in, and it took me a few seconds to become resigned to them. There was no way I was going to become used to them, but resigned was acceptable at least.

Now that I looked somewhat human again, I headed out of the restroom and into the baggage claim to pick up my one suitcase. I tried to walk at a human pace out to the curb, where I knew Charlie was waiting. I was not looking forward to the drive to Forks stuffed into a car with my father.

This trip to live with Charlie tested my self-control in ways that I had tried to plan for, but when it came down to it, was nearly impossible to do so. You can be prepared and feel like you are ready to sit surrounded by delicious smelling people for hours on end, but it doesn't quite compare to the torment of the reality.

I needed to hunt again. It would have to be tonight, and thankfully Charlie's house was bordering the forest and I would be able to escape easily. Another one of my reasons to move here: I sure there was more game, but also a greater variety. Desert coyotes were tastier than hare; they were not nearly as prolific, but they were larger. I was looking forward to the thought of larger animals here where there was plenty of land for them.

As I'd thought, the long drive to Forks with Charlie was interminable. Thankfully, Charlie wasn't a talker like Renee, and most of the ride was made in silence. I tried not to breathe. At all. Instead, I concentrated on fidgeting. I had found pretty quickly, when I'd returned home, that people moved a lot. Their bodies were so soft and weak that any position was uncomfortable to keep for very long and that meant a lot of shifting. Movement that my body didn't need any more. I could hold the same position perfectly for hours on end.

Noticing this, I'd watched Renee and Phil as I realized that no part of me reacted to anything the way that it did when I was... well, human. It was hard to think about, hard to consider, I probably couldn't consider myself human any longer.

So I focused most of my attention on moving: making my chest go up and down as though inflating and deflating with breath, blinking several times a minute - though this shifted the contacts on my eyes uncomfortably - shifting the weight of my body in the seat and crossing and uncrossing my ankles repeatedly. It wasn't perfect, but it was distracting, at least.

By the time we arrived at the house in Forks, I was desperate for fresh air. I found it so very difficult to be trapped in the car with my father, but I was not going to be the cause of his death. I'd controlled myself for weeks with Phil and Renee, and I was even able to attend school fairly regularly on overcast days without anyone getting hurt, so I knew that I could do it.

It took supreme effort to step slowly out of the squad car, and I took in a deep, bracing breath of fresh air as I did. I stood there a moment, inhaling slowly, before I turned carefully and went to get my suitcase from the trunk. Charlie was already there, of course, insisting on carrying it himself, though I could easily pick up his car and carry it into the house, but I didn't want him to know that, so I just smiled and followed him into the house.

I hadn't been here in years, forcing my father to take time off in the summer. I insisted that we go other places, warm places. Looking back, it seemed very childish of me to have refused to come here, especially since temperature as a whole mattered to me so little any more.

Charlie led the way upstairs and I glided after him, holding my breath again as we made our way to my old room. It had always been my room, since my birth, and I thought it was amusing he felt that he needed to escort me up.

"Well, here's your room," he said as he opened the door for me and set my suitcase on the bed. "I tried to update it a little for you, since you were a kid the last time you stayed here. Put in the computer your mother insisted on, and got a new bed. You do like blue, right?"

He gestured to the sheet set and comforter covering the new bed and I smiled.

"Yeah, Dad, blue is fine. Thanks." He'd gone to a lot of effort to get things ready for me to come and stay here. It looked like he was more excited about this than I thought. Ah, Charlie. He'd always had a hard time expressing himself, but the effort he took in making sure I had a comfortable space said a lot about how much he cared.

"Well, I'll leave you to settle in," Charlie continued as he made his way awkwardly to the door. "Let me know if you, uh, need anything. There's a game on tonight I thought I'd watch."

My dad and sports. He'd be camped out in front of the TV the rest of the night.

"Sure, Dad. Thanks again. I'll just work on unpacking," I assured him that I'd be just fine while he obsessed about the game.

Just like that, he was gone, door closed behind him, and he was on his way to get a beer before he found his way to his favorite arm chair for the rest of the night. I could hear him rustling around downstairs before the blare of the TV came on and I knew his attention was captured.

I tried to move slowly as I worked at unpacking my suitcase, sure that Charlie would not pop in suddenly but still, it was less to hide. I'd found that with Renee it was just easier to continue to do things as I had always done them, moving at a human pace. It still didn't take long to put all my clothes away in the dresser and the small closet; I hadn't brought much with me. Honestly, I didn't have many cold weather clothes and I'd have to go shopping soon to keep up the illusion of being human in the cold. I looked around when I was done, going over in my mind the things I needed to do, and then reached over to turn on the computer to drop my mom an email.

She'd become particularly obsessive about where I was since the time I'd been missing, and she'd want to make sure that I got into town alright, and that I was safe with Charlie. Sending her an email sooner rather than later was easier than dealing with the demanding phone call I was sure to get if I didn't.

The email didn't take long, and I shut off the computer again and settled back onto the bed, leaning against the wall with several of my favorite books at hand. Jane Austen was always a favorite, as were the Bronte sisters. I also had a serious weakness for the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She lived a real life love story and it reflected so beautifully in her words that I couldn't help but devour them.

I set the other books aside and opened my favorite of her collections, Sonnets from the Portuguese. Mostly they were about her love for her husband, but there was a line at the end of one of them that described so well how I had felt since I regained control of myself after the change:

Of desolation! there's a voice within

That weeps . . . as thou must sing . . . alone, aloof.

This was my life now. I would always be apart from everyone else. Alone. Aloof. Desolation. I dropped the book beside me on the bed and tilted my head to look out the window, watching the ever present rain mist up the air and cloud the sky. The rain set off my mood quite well, covering the town, and me, in darkness.