DISCLAIMER: All characters and story world belong to SM. All lyrical references and quotes are property of their original artist. No copyright infringement intended.
PLEASE NOTE: This story will include dark themes, and a few scenes of self-harm, and violence. Please be advised. If this is a trigger for you, please read the A/N for each chapter for a warning.
[Beta'd by: Project Team Beta, Bikechick3]
Special thanks to: Ocdmess
A Perfect Circle – 3 Libras
Fiona Apple – Never is a Promise
* This chapter contains self-harm *
It hurts. Everything inside of me just aches. I don't want to focus on anything in particular because I know it will remind me of my past. Remind me of everything that has pained me and everything about him.
I am amazed at how strongly I can feel the hole in my chest. It feels like I could just open up my skin and look inside and assuredly there will be an empty spot. I feel like I can look right through myself.
Simply moving hurts. Every deep breath I take aches, and when I wake in the middle of the night screaming and gasping out his name, it burns worse. The pressure inside my chest makes no sense to me logically. It is empty inside, so what is causing this internal pressure?
Friday, Sept. 15th.
My chest expanded as I took a deep breath. I had been running, and after falling so many times that my hands were so red from the scratches and blood, I collapsed. But where was I?
As soon as he left my sight, I began running after him. I didn't even know what direction I was headed; I was completely lost and terrified. I knew I needed to calm down, but my heart seemed like it would beat out of my chest and I felt like I couldn't breathe. My lungs were on fire. I wanted to keep going, chasing after him; but I knew he could easily outrun me. He is a vampire, after all. My being human was what had caused all of this in the first place. My ability to bleed at the most inopportune moments was why I was alone in the woods.
I gasped for air as I clutched the dirt beneath my hands. I sobbed in defeat while I dug my nails into the damp ground. I leaned to my right and let myself crumble to the floor of the forest. I lay on my side for what felt like eternity before I let the darkness take me.
I blinked my eyes rapidly and noticed I was moving, and not by my own feet. My back, legs and entire right side was warm from a direct heat. I slowly lifted my head and saw a giant man carrying me; his skin was as dark as his eyes. The chocolate color captivated me as he held my gaze briefly. I took a deep breath and a rush of cold air stung my lungs, causing me to shudder.
"You're all right, Bella. You're going to be okay," a deep voice huffed.
Everything became blurry again as I slipped into unconsciousness.
A light stung my eyes as I fluttered my lids. It was still dark outside, and the blinding light was coming from someone's headlights. Where am I? Have I been sleeping a whole day? A voice penetrated my consciousness and I turned my head in the direction of the sound.
"... and I don't understand how you got that far," Charlie muttered half to himself, half to me. I took a deep breath, and a throbbing pain shot through my head. I groaned and turned my head toward the window.
Charlie glanced at me again and frowned before he turned back toward the road. The hum of the car on the pavement and the soft rhythm of the radio were the only noises. I stretched my limbs, and stopped when a shooting pain caused me to groan again. My mind raced as I tried to figure out what had happened. Random flashes of images played through my head in an odd sequence.
I'm running through a forest; my lungs are burning from panicked breaths. A man is carrying me very quickly. I'm clutching at the dirt as I scream at nothing. My hands are filthy and bleeding. I can feel a cold breath against my forehead as I tremble. A blank expression as he tells me he doesn't want me anymore. I clutch at my side to hold myself together as he tells me I'm not good for him.
I shut my eyes and pulled my arms tightly around myself. He left me? He just left me. He left me alone in the woods. The realization brought a new burning pain to my chest.
Charlie glanced at me again, but didn't say anything. Once his gaze was back on the road, I took a look at the clock; it was half past two in the morning. Holy Crow, I thought. It had been almost ten hours. I wondered when they started looking for me. How far had I wandered? I knew I ran for a long time looking for him, but I honestly hadn't gone that far, had I?
I noticed the radio was playing a quiet, melancholy song that I recognized as '3 Libras'. The song's tempo picked up and seemed to grow louder as it neared the end. The lyrics resonated with me, and I found myself choking back my emotions so I wouldn't falter in front of Charlie.
"… Eyes of a fallen angel. Eyes of a tragedy. Oh well. Apparently nothing at all. You don't see me at all."
The lyrics were sung powerfully, but were droplets of liquid pain compared to the ocean of hurt I felt. Would there ever be words strong enough? Will I ever be strong enough to say them out loud? Just thinking his name was too much for me to even linger on. I didn't even want to think about what would happen when people started asking me about him.
I looked at the side view mirror and saw the shell of a person that was reflected back at me. The words echoed in the song as it came to a close.
"…You don't see me at all…"
Charlie looked over at me again, and I sighed, closing my eyes. I wondered if he understood the context of the song the same way that I did. I figured he probably wasn't even paying attention to the radio, or the pain that the lyrics reminded me of deep inside my chest. Surely the burn could only last so long, right?
Two days had passed, and I still couldn't form any words. My throat felt raw from all the crying, and I wondered if my voice would even work anymore. Charlie was used to our routine silence around the house, but I was sure this was awkward for him. I only ate a few bites of cereal in the morning when he would insist on having breakfast with me before going to the station. He kept insisting that he could take a few days off if I needed him. I just shook my head, and looked out the window.
I could tell I was frustrating him and causing him to worry. He was never good at dealing with emotions, so he wasn't very good at hiding the few he had. I didn't need Jasper's ability to sense emotions to know that he was filled with concern, grief and possibly guilt. For what, I couldn't even begin to guess, but knowing Charlie, he would find some way to blame himself.
It surprised me, however, that he had stopped asking questions so quickly after the whole situation in the woods. He even said that he had called the school to inform them that I would be taking the week off. Thanks Dad, I thought to myself, but I still couldn't seem to form words.
The next few days were all a blur to me. Charlie had stopped asking me questions altogether. Finally, after a week, we slipped into a normal routine. He would eat breakfast with me before going to work, and I would go back up to my room to sit in my rocking chair and stare out the window. I wasn't reading my books anymore, and I had stopped listening to any of my music. I did notice, however, that he must had come into my room sometime before the last walk we shared, because all of my pictures of him were missing, and the CD that he and Alice had made with my Lullaby was gone. I felt a tightening in my chest as I realized he had taken all of my reminders of him away from me as well. It wasn't enough that he grew bored, but he had to take the only tangible things I had to tie me to him as well?
I just sat in my chair and stared out the window, watching the world go by. I wasn't looking forward to going back to school.
By the time Monday morning rolled around, I was dragging my feet as much as possible. Charlie even waited for me to leave for school before he left for work.
I got into my cold truck, and my teeth chattered so loudly that it sounded like they might shatter. The sound of the beast roaring to life startled me. I took a deep breath and felt the pain in my chest flare as I shifted into reverse. I kept repeating I can do this in my head.
As I pulled into the school parking lot, the ache in my heart felt like it would be too much. My chest burned as I looked at the empty parking spaces that they used to occupy. Of course they aren't there, Bella. It's stupid to think anything would be the same.
Eric called me by my 'Arizona' nickname as I stumbled out of my truck. I looked up and nodded my head as I tried to give a half smile, but I couldn't even force that much. I put my mind on auto pilot, and kept my head down.
The rest of the day dragged on, and eventually I was free to go home. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that Charlie was home early. How odd. I stepped in the front door, and could feel the warmth of the house. Charlie was on the phone at the kitchen table.
"No, no one has heard that name before. I know - it doesn't add up," he said. He turned on the chair, noticing me, and hurried off the phone.
"So, how was school today, Bella?" Charlie asked. I just shrugged and tried to walk past him, but he grabbed my arm gently.
"Bella, you have to talk soon. I got a call from the school and the teachers are worried," he said, looking at me with concern.
"I know, dad. I'm trying," was all I could muster out of my mouth. Charlie simply looked at me, afraid of how to react.
I passed my father, and headed up the stairs slowly. I let out a deep sigh and I opened my door. I tossed my book bag on the bed, sat in my rocking chair, and curled my knees to my chest. I realized that today was just the first day of many more to come.
It took me ten days to speak.
By the end of the month, Charlie had started pushing me to hang out with Angela, Jessica, and Jacob. Billy and Jacob had been coming over more frequently to watch sports, and I knew it wasn't because of convenience. He was trying to get me to open up, but it just didn't feel right with Jake. I sat with them, pretending to do my homework while they enjoyed the game, and responded when they asked me a question. I had dinner ready for Charlie every night, and was even talking more.
Of course I wasn't feeling any better. I still had this terrible, empty hole inside my chest that burned every time I breathed. At night, I was always reminded of it when I woke up screaming. The dreams were always the same, and I wondered what my nightmares would be like if these were just my dreams.
For the first few weeks, Charlie would come in and wake me when I screamed, but after the third week, he stopped coming in. It was probably for the best.
At work, I found myself staring at the calendar again. I closed my eyes and sighed. It was October 15th, 2005; one month. Mike came out of the back room pushing a dolly full of boxes.
"Hey Bella, some more stuff I found in the back. You want to put it out, or you want to run the register?" Mike asked.
"I'll put them out. You got a box cutter?" I put my left palm out as I came around from the counter.
Mike reached into his pocket and pulled one out, turning his wrist to put it into my palm. Just as it connected with my hand, I noticed my right foot was no longer moving forward and time seemed to freeze. My leg locked behind me as my foot caught on something and panic flooded my body. I reached out to brace myself and I accidently gripped the box cutter tighter while simultaneously taking it out of his hand, as I began to fall. I put my other hand out to try and catch myself, but it was a useless effort. My wrist gave out as my right hand made contact with the ground, and I fell straight to my face.
My left hand was searing in pain and the air had been knocked out of my lungs. I smelled the blood before I even saw it as I turned and looked at my left palm.
"Shit," I muttered as I slowly opened my hand. "It must have opened when I took it from you."
My hand began to bleed heavily as I opened it to check the damage. I dropped the box cutter and made a fist as I pushed myself up from the ground with my other hand. I got to my feet and looked around to see where Mike had gone. He popped up from behind the counter, holding the first aid kit. Mike called me over as he began to dig through the box, and I cringed a little at the thought of the alcohol. I looked at his face and nearly laughed when I saw the sickly expression. I reached out and took the alcohol from the box.
"Mike, I got it. You look sick; maybe you should go sit down. I'm fine."
"Aren't you feeling faint, Bella? I thought you didn't like the smell of blood?" He looked at me, confused.
"I guess I'm getting used to it. After all my accidents lately..." I paused. I don't want to think of my last accident.
Mike looked relieved as he turned to walk toward the restroom. I opened my palm back up and winced as the pain radiated over my whole hand. I took a deep breath and was surprised when I didn't feel the burning sensation in my chest. Interesting.
I flexed my fingers and took another deep breath, this time taking in the smell of the blood. Nothing. No screaming inside my chest, no trembling and no faintness. Very interesting. I quickly cleaned up the mess, and wrapped my hand with a bandage, the sting from the alcohol causing it to throb. By the time Mike came back out, I was wiping the counter down with more alcohol.
"I think maybe I should put the merchandise out. I don't want you hurting yourself again." Mike shot me a half grin and I turned, resigning myself to the stool behind the counter. The rest of my shift was going to be boring anyway; the cold was driving business down.
The sun was high in the sky and covered by clouds by the time I walked to my truck at the end of my shift. By the end of the drive home, my hand had started to ache and the burning in my chest had returned.
I headed inside, placing my keys on the table and shrugging out of my jacket. I still had a few hours before I would need to start dinner, so I pulled the fish out of the freezer and wondered how much more Charlie and Harry would be bringing home. I climbed the stairs carefully, entered my room, placed my bag on my floor and climbed into my rocking chair to gaze out the window.
As I starred outside, I tried to remember simple details about them. While lost in thought, the sun came out and a bright sparkle caught my attention. My eyes locked onto the corner beside my bed, where the sun glinted off something. I stood, walked to the bed, reached down, and gingerly grasped the object. I turned the Exacto blade over in my hand, examining it. It was part of the scrapbook starter kit for trimming photos that I had been given on my birthday. Of course, in my hands it was only a dangerous weapon that invited trouble.
Something inside of me turned over with uncertainty. Could I really do that? I found myself thinking back to just a few short hours ago when the reality of a different kind of pain had set in. Before, I could never stand the smell of blood, but I had handled it so well at my birthday party and even better at Newton's shop. Perhaps I could train myself to not fear or be affected by it at all. In the process of acclimating myself, I could also release the pain inside of my chest that was always burning me alive. I walked back over to my rocking chair and sat down, pulling my knees up to my chest as I stared down at the metal object, losing myself in a daze.
As I sat staring out the window, I could almost hear the faint echo of his words that day in the forest. "Promise me you won't do anything reckless, or stupid," he had said, "for Charlie." How many of his words that day were true? The look on his face had been so plain and matter of fact. I could still picture him in my mind, but the image was something I tried to not allow myself to indulge in; it hurt too much. I let his words repeat in my memory as I allowed myself that one piece of my past.
The sun had already begun to set and cast an orange light through my room. I jolted in my chair as I heard tires on the gravel outside. I looked up at the clock and saw that two hours had passed. I turned back to the window and looked out to see Charlie pulling into the driveway. I should have already started dinner! Surely he would notice that something was off, especially when he saw my hand, so I had to come up with something – fast.
As I ran down the stairs – trying to think of what to fix for dinner – I accidentally caught my foot on the bottom stair. I went hurdling forward and reached my hand out to break my fall. I grabbed onto the table at the bottom of the stairs as I slammed my palm against the edge. The pain made me gasp, and I cursed under my breath as Charlie walked in the front door. At first he smiled at me warmly as he closed the door behind him, but when he noticed the white of the wrap on my hand, he dropped his holster in the chair and ran to my side.
"What happened, Bella? It looks soaked through! Have you been to the hospital for this?" He spewed out the questions in one continuous stream.
"I'm fine Ch-dar-Dad. I just tripped and probably opened it back up again. I'm fine." I sighed and held my palm closer to my chest in hopes he wouldn't see the damage and try to take me to the hospital.
"I don't know, Bells. We should have Dr. Gerandy take a look at it. It might need stitches. What happened?" He slowed his questions and put his hand on my shoulder, waiting for the truth.
"I was just being me; clumsy and work don't seem to mix. Its fine, I promise. I'll just go change the bandage. I'll be right back down to start dinner." I turned and headed upstairs, taking the steps a bit slower this time.
"Bells, don't worry about dinner. I'll just call for a pizza. I don't want you worrying about cooking with your hand in that shape," he called from the bottom of the stairs.
"Alright, Dad, but really I'm fine; it's just my left hand," I called back as I entered the bathroom. I unwrapped the bandage and poured more alcohol over the wound. The cut stung in the fresh air and the alcohol made it burn. I gritted my teeth and bit my lower lip, as I tried not to curse. While the pain was intense, it was manageable. I tested my theory again and took a deep breath. I breathed in deeper than I had been able to for a month and a small smile crossed my lips. Nothing, again. Every time I felt physical pain, it numbed the emotional pain.
For the rest of the night, I spent my time doing homework and putting on the façade of being okay for Charlie.
The next day at school, I wrote random phrases in the corner of my notebook. I had been scribbling during my lunch periods as a way to pretend I was listening without having to participate in any of the conversations. Angela still tried to get me involved in social things, and while I appreciated the effort, I really found it rather unnerving.
During lunch, I bought my lemonade and took my seat, pulling my notebook out from my bag. Angela looked at me as she passed and took her seat. As Jessica sat down beside her, she looked over my shoulder at my sketches and made a 'hmph' noise. I continued to nod my head to the conversations while I made doodles and wrote down words. Just before the bell rang, I noticed I had a good chunk of a poem or song written out. I stood, put the notebook back in my bag and headed for class. After school, I left for work.
As I was getting ready to go home at 7 p.m., I noticed a small, folding hunter's knife display by the door.
"How much are those, Mrs. Newton?" I asked. She turned and smiled at me before she glanced back at the display.
"They are $29.99. Not bad at all for a small pocket knife. They should be a good seller," she responded. "Why do you ask, Bella?" She looked back at me, curiously.
"I think I'll buy one." I grabbed one from the display, and turned to head toward the register. "Would you mind ringing me up for one, Mrs. Newton?"
"Of course not, dear. But why the sudden interest, if I may ask?" She looked concerned now. Damn, I needed a cover. No one would believe me needing a knife. But…
"Early Christmas gift for Charlie. It's the perfect size for his tackle box," I said, the excuse just rolling off my tongue. Maybe I was getting better at lying after all.
"Oh, of course! That's a great idea." She finished the transaction and I slipped the bag around my wrist.
"Thanks again, Mrs. Newton. I'll see you Wednesday." I smiled and waved as I walked out the door. Once in my car, I pulled the knife out of the bag and opened the plastic case containing it. I swear; you almost need the knife to get it out of the case. Finally, I managed to pull it out of the plastic without harming myself. I flicked the blade open and looked it over. The entire knife was silver and fit in the palm of my hand when closed. I put it into my back pocket, started the truck and headed home.
Once home, I walked straight to my window and opened it. The cold air drifted in through the opening as I sat on the ledge. With one leg bent on the sill and the other hanging into the bedroom, I stared out into the woods. As I sat, words started coming back to me from earlier in the afternoon. I climbed off the window ledge and collected my notebook, flipping through the pages until I found the one with all my scribbled words. I slowly walked back to the ledge, resumed my previous position and stared at the words scrawled across the white page.
I hummed quietly as I read the words in my head. I closed my eyes and the lyrics flowed from me easily, expelling all the pressure inside as I sobbed. My right hand gripped my knee and I pulled it closer to my chest, trying to steady myself.
"You'll say don't fear your dreams, well it's easier than it seems." I squeezed my eyes shut as my voice trembled. "But 'never' is a promise and I'll never need a lie." I took a deep, painful breath.
I leaned forward and my hand dug into my pocket as I pulled the new blade forward. My breath was shaky as I flicked the tool open. I turned my left hand over, exposing my wrist and looked at my pale skin. No, not there. I pushed my sleeve up further, almost to my shoulder, and gripped the blade tightly in my hand.
I lifted the knife to just above the elbow, and dragged the steel across my flushed skin. As I pulled the edge toward my torso, I gasped. A sudden rush of adrenaline flooded my body, and the blood pooled at the top of my skin before it ran down to my elbow. The internal pressure of the gaping hole in my chest was completely gone as I breathed in deeply once more.
Nothing. Exactly what I really wished would occupy this hole permanently. I sat there, perfectly still, as I continued to breathe in deeply and exhale. A calm ran through my body while I inhaled the scent of my blood. It was almost as though my sorrow was being carried out through the blood in my veins. A slight smile crept across my face, and I turned to look out the window once more.
As I stared across the street at the edge of the forest, a flash of bright eyes caught my attention. I blinked once and the eyes were completely gone. The trees swayed slightly and my voice shook once more.
"Edward..." my lips whispered. The pain rushed back into my chest, and I began to sob again.
Song question of the chapter: What one song did you think/feel was speaking directly to you when you heard it? If you feel like sharing why, I'd love to hear about it! My answer will be on the top A/N of the next chapter. =)