Disclaimer: All plot, settings and characters related to Twilight are property of Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringements are intended.

Escape



I stare out the window, the perfect and cliché picture of melancholy and despair. The sun's rays shine through the window's glass. Filtered patterns of light play taunting games of tag across my pale skin, but I don't feel their warmth. I am as cold and hard as the glass through which I halfheartedly peer.

I haven't been here in months, this dark place that seems to seep through fragile veins and suck my soul dry. And I'm afraid, because I've worked so hard to get this far; I can't afford to fall back down the rabbit hole again.

The truth is I haven't really felt whole since he left. But when you're desperate enough you learn to numb yourself to the truth and play the version of yourself that you present to people in your lies. I've gotten very good at being the puppet and the master; after all I'm very desperate.

But today, I miss him with an intensity that mirrors the desire any addict feels towards their drug of choice.

Edward is bad for me, I know that. What a cruel torture it is then, that he should be the only thing I truly want.

Choice… I have a choice, it's true. But what is meant to be a liberating manifestation of free will serves only as another bar on the prison that holds me in.

I close my eyes and try not to think about him. How long has it been now since I last saw Edward? At least four months I think. Yet still, it took all the strength I had not to scream for him right now.

The memory of our first encounter swells forward, uninvited. Reminiscing is dangerous for me, but I feel rebellious today, and give myself over to the tide.

Losing a parent is never an easy burden to carry. To see the light of the person that gave you life be snuffed out so callously wounds the soul.

My mother's tombstone isn't exceptionally nice; just a slab of gray rock. It angers me that this piece of stone is supposed to represent my mother; the person around which my whole world revolved for most of my existence. Even more so, I was angry that she'd been taken from me. Every future event I had ever dreamed of, my high school graduation, college, boyfriends, and maybe one day a wedding, were now devoid of one of the most important people in my life. I was only 17 damn it! I still needed my mother.

Renee and her new husband Phil had been traveling to Jacksonville. Some asshole that didn't have the time to drive by the rules caused a four car accident that stole seven lives, my mother and Phil included. No warning, no chance to say goodbye. Poof, they were gone. My mother's scatter brained mishaps, her gentle smile, the way she saw the world with child-like innocence, they were all tucked away with her in the ground now.

There had been too much change in my life, in too short a period of time. I had left Phoenix, Arizona behind, so that my mother could travel with Phil as he sought out work in the Minor League baseball career. It had been a major sacrifice on my part. The wet, cold, and green climate of Forks, Washington, where my father resided did not fit my personality at all.

No sooner had I begun to settle into my new home, my life had been upended yet again.

The funeral is like a dream, and I can't focus on anything. All I know is that if one more person says "I'm sorry for your loss" I'm going to lose it. Honestly, if you can't think of anything more original to say to someone who is grieving, then don't say anything at all. Somehow I manage to make it through the ceremony. Charlie and I have a plane to catch which gives us an excuse to avoid the awkward after-funeral gathering of relatives and friends.

So now I have to look down at this gray tombstone and say goodbye to my mother. But how do you say goodbye to someone who's already left?

"Bella, we have to catch our flight."

I can hear my father's voice crack as he speaks, and I avoid looking at him as I let him usher me towards the car. I can swallow my own despair, but I can't stand the pain in the eyes of others.

Charlie doesn't like planes, and he's tense and restless throughout the whole flight. I pretend to sleep, eyes shut to the world.

The car ride home from the airport is silent, a sentence without an ending mark. When we finally arrive home, the walls reverberate with an equally overwhelming silence. Charlie and I are ghosts; stepping around each other for fear that if we collide, reality will come crashing down for real. Poor Sheriff Charlie, so equipped to handle everyone else's tragedies and loses, but woefully unprepared for such events to touch him. I'm sure he is filled with mixed emotions. My mother walked out on him long ago, but it's easy to see that he still loves her as much as she once loved him.

Only an hour passes before I can't stand the atmosphere anymore.

"I'm going for a drive," I say softly as I pass Charlie.

He gives a slight nod, and then turns his face back towards the television show that I'm sure he's not actually watching.

My battered truck awaits me, a knight in rusty armor, loyal and ready to lead me to escape. I gently coax the engine to life, and pull out onto the road, with no particular destination in mind. If I were in Phoenix, my windows would be rolled down, and I'd be inhaling the scent of scorched earth and soaking up the sun. But the sun is gone in Forks, banished by the heavy wet climate and the tall green trees.

As I drive aimlessly, a playground passes by on my left. The next thing I knew I had turned the car around and was stopped in the parking lot of the playground. It was empty, run down and unused for some time. The swings moving restlessly in the wind, their creaking sounding to my ears like broken sobs.

I don't realize that I've gotten out of the car until I hear the slamming of the car door. My feet carry me with slow decisiveness in the direction of the swings.

As I child I hadn't been a big fan of playgrounds. They were loud, and over stimulating and intimidating. But as I position myself on the seat and grip the cold metal chains I feel slightly relieved for some strange reason. I step back with the swing, as far as the chain will let me go, until I'm standing on my tiptoes. Then I let go, and I swing forward. My legs move methodically, trained thoroughly on the ways to get the most height out of the little black seat. When I get a good rhythm going, I close my eyes and it feels like I'm flying.

Then, as suddenly as it had came, the peaceful feeling I had felt when I sat down disappeared. The weight of the world comes crashing down. I dig my heels into the earth below me. Stop. My head begins to spin. I fight against the pull of the swing; I fight against the pull of the world itself. Stop.

Something wet is trickling down my cheeks. I reach up and realize the trail is coming from my eyes. And then I reach my breaking point.

My body goes limp, and slides from the swing onto the ground in a helpless heap. The sobs start in my toes, and rip their way out of my throat; violent and uncontrollable. Was this really all the world had to offer me?

"Miss, are you alright?"

I start to gasp in surprise but when my eyes flit upwards to the figure addressing me, the breath gets caught in my throat.

Standing before me, is the most beautiful creature I've ever seen.

Auburn locks weave helter-skelter across his head, curving down his forehead to accent his brilliantly green eyes. His skin is pale, like white marble, sculpted into a strong jaw and an entirely too appealing set of lips. My attraction to him is immediate and sets every cell in my body on high alert.

It's like my heart is standing in front of me in human form, like I'm staring at a piece of me.

I'm being awkwardly silent, and he smiles politely as he waits for some form of intelligent response from me.

"I…I…um, no. I'm not ok. My mother just died."

He steps closer to me and kneels down so that he's staring me in the eyes.

I had wondered if he would still be as gorgeous close up, as he was far away. The answer is yes.

His eyes hold pity, and maybe a bit of understanding. "I'm very sorry to hear that. It's never easy to lose someone you love. But I'm sure you're mother loved you just as fiercely, and I doubt she'd want to see you crying all alone like this."

He reaches a hand to me, offering to help me up. The strict five year old within me reminds me that I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, but I reach up and let my fingers rest in his soft palm.

I am pulled upwards, and find myself much closer to him. He smells like every good scent I've ever come across wrapped up into one irresistible fragrance. My head is spinning again, but in a much more pleasant way.

"I'm Edward."

I'm pretty sure his voice is so wonderful that it alone could promote world peace.

"Bella," I whisper so softly that I think there's no way he could have heard me.

But he smiles. "Bella, that's a beautiful name. Well it's certainly a pleasure to meet you, though I wish it wasn't during such unpleasant circumstances."

I don't really know what to say. I'm pretty sure he's a god, or an angel, or some sort of ethereal creature. And what does one say to something so inhumanly beautiful?

"Bella, you look like you could use some company. Would you like to go somewhere and talk?"

I should say no. He could be a total psychopath. The last thing Charlie needs is to have to bury another body. But somehow, I know that I am safe with this stranger. Edward won't hurt me. Irrationally but wholeheartedly, I trust him. So I say yes.

"Bells."

I'm pulled out of my memories by the sound of Charlie's voice. He's standing in my bedroom doorway with that frightened look he wears whenever he's around me now. That looks that says 'I don't know what's wrong with you, and I'm afraid to breathe too loudly in your presence because I don't know what will set you off.'

"Yes, Charlie?"

"I have to go to the station for a while. Do you um, do you need anything?"

"No."

I hear him give a soft sigh as he turns and heads the down the stairs. Poor Charlie, he was so clueless. But it was better that way, a burden I needed to carry on my own. Charlie could never know how much had happened in the past months.

That day I walked into the woods with Edward changed my life forever.

He brought me to a meadow, the most beautiful little spot I'd ever seen. It was alive with beautiful floral blooms. There was something almost magical about it. We sat among the flowers, Edward and I, and talked for hours. I bared my soul to someone I had just met. Edward was…amazing. He listened to me, with such total and dedicated attention. He was polite, witty, and possibly the sweetest person I'd ever met in my entire life. By the time we'd reached the end of our conversation I had felt like I'd known him my entire life.

When it started to get dark, he walked me back to my truck. As he pushed a strand of my hair behind my ear he asked if he could see me again. My answer was a stuttered yes.

The meadow became our meeting place, on an almost daily basis. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was falling for him. And as impossible as it seemed, he reciprocated my feelings. The first time his lips brushed softly against mine, I thought my heart was going to burst with happiness. Each kiss he graced upon my person was like a stitch, pulling my broken heart and mind back together. Slowly but surely I started to feel better, whole, even when I wasn't around him.

But our relationship wasn't without its obstacles. Edward was very secretive. He would tell me nothing of his past; he got tense whenever I tried to ask him things about himself. He said he was 17, but he didn't go to school. The response I got when questioning him was that he was home schooled. That answer worked for a week or two. But when after two months I'd never seen him around town, never met his family, and he refused to meet Charlie, my suspicions finally took the reign.

The day everything changed, springs forward in my mind, pulling me down into its murky water.

"Are you, embarrassed by me or something?" I ask him. Even though the sun is blocked by the ever present clouds, the flowers around us seem bright and vibrant.

He looks at me in surprise. "Bella, what would make you prey to such a vast misapprehension?"

I pick at a blade of grass. "You know the answer to that, Edward."

"I've told you, it's complicated."

I sigh. His cool fingers hook beneath my chin and turn my face towards him. "Listen to me, Bella. I could never be embarrassed by you; never."

"Then why don't I know anything about you? Edward, you haven't even told me your last name."

Edward pulls me to him in a gentle embrace. "I love you, Bella. Isn't that enough?"

"I love you too, that's why I want you to meet Charlie. I want you to be a part of my life, all of it."

His grip tightens on me. "What if I can't?"

I pull away and gaze up at him in frustration. "What does that even mean? Can't you give me an answer that isn't formatted into some encrypted code?"

"Bella, some questions are better left unanswered."

Now I'm angry. "Edward, if this thing between us is going to continue it can't be a one way street. You either give it your all, or you leave."

"Are you sure you want to do this?" There's something in his voice, he sounds frightened. His eyes plead with me but there is no deterring me now.

"I want answers, honest answers."

His hand comes up to brush agitatedly through his hair. I've never seen him look so unsure before. He stands up in a swift and fluid motion. "Let's go."

I follow him back through the trees and we wind up back at the playground where I've left my truck. The usual routine is that he kisses me goodbye and stands in my parking space watching as I drive away. I have no clue where he goes once I'm gone.

Today is different. I'm thrown as he opens up the passenger door of my truck and slides in. I stand there for a few seconds, gaping at him in shock, before I manage to close my mouth and get in the car.

"Where do you want to go?" I ask hesitantly.

"Your place, if that's all right."

"Um, yeah…ok."

Edward stares out the window as I drive. I'm afraid to break the silence. I have this sinking feeling in my stomach that something bad is about to happen.

When we got to the house I'm relieved to see that Charlie isn't home. Whatever is going on between Edward and me is something I don't want him to see. I unlock the door, and Edward brushes past me.

"Do you have a camera?" he asks as I shut the door behind me.

"I...I think Charlie has one somewhere. Let me go check."

I find one, unused for years, on a bookshelf. It's an old Polaroid, but when I check I see that it works fine. When I come back the living room Edward is standing there, still as a statue with his hands in his pockets and the most heartbreaking look on his face. Suddenly I don't want to ask any questions. I want to rewind the day and pretend everything was fine.

"Take a picture of me." Edward's command is barely audible; his face like stone set into an expression of agony.

"Edward I…"

"Just do it, Bella."

My hands are shaking as I raise the camera and snap a picture.

Edward doesn't move…I almost forget to breathe as I pull the photo out and wait for the picture to come up.

The sound of the clock ticking matches the anxious pounding of my heart.

There's the ceiling, and the wall, the TV, the floor, the…door.

I look up with wide eyes. Edward is standing in front of the door. Edward isn't in the picture…at all.

I suddenly feel very unstable. My voice is shaking uncontrollably as I turn the picture so he can see it. "What the hell?"

He doesn't say a word, just looks at me with pained eyes.

So when I speak again it isn't a whisper, it's more like a panicked yelp. "Edward, what's going on?!"

Before he can answer my mind puts the pieces together.

I've never seen Edward in town, he doesn't have a last name, I've never met his parents, and he doesn't show up in pictures.

I could never introduce him to my father, because Charlie wouldn't see him either.

Edward didn't exist.

The front door slams and makes me jump. Charlie's back already? I glance at the clock and realize he's been gone for five hours. I need to stop drifting like this. I wipe ferociously at the tears that have gathered at the corners of my eyes.

My mother always said that if it seemed too good to be true, it probably was. Oh Renee, what would you say now if you knew your daughter had gone and lost her freaking mind?

Imaginary friends were cute on a three year old, but at seventeen it wasn't so normal.

Suffice it to say I'd freaked out. Realizing that the person you're in love with is a figment of your imagination is a rather traumatizing experience. Edward hadn't spoken a word. He'd barely looked at me as I sobbed and ranted and basically had a total nervous breakdown. And when I'd told him to leave, he'd done so, vacating the room like a ghost. He just left.

When I'd finished crying, I sat on the couch for a long time, thinking. I'd contemplated whether I should tell Charlie.

Crazy people end up in mental hospitals, wearing straight jackets, and doped up on antipsychotic meds. That would only be more hellish pain for Charlie. No, I couldn't do that to him.

So I decided that I would just fix it myself. If Edward was a manifestation from my crazy mind, then I should be able to banish him. I could just go back to being normal, uninteresting Bella Swan. No one would ever have to know.

So here I sit, obviously failing at pretending I'm all right, and that things are normal. I'm frightened that I can't trust what's in front of my face. What else in my surroundings may not actually be there? And worst of all…I miss my make believe boyfriend. I miss him so much that it hurts to breathe, hurts to think; hurts to exist without him.

Because my lips remember real kisses, my skin remembers real fingers tracing gently along it, my heart remembers real happiness and a real sense of love.

They don't have answers for shit like this in the columns of Seventeen Magazine.

My choice should be simple. There was no way I could have a truly happy life with someone who doesn't exist as far as the rest of the world is concerned. But I'm not sure I can exist without Edward. Hell, maybe I've got this backwards. Maybe I'm a figment of his imagination.

My life could be a freaking lifetime movie at this point.

I needed to distract myself. I hadn't checked my email in ages. That was a menial and brainless task. I take a deep breathe as I sit in the computer chair and open up my email. There are loads of messages, mostly school related things from my teachers or peers. But then my eyes fall upon an older email; one from Renee. She'd sent it to me the day I arrived in Forks. The last communication I'd received from her before…

I fight with myself for five minutes before I move the mouse over to her email and click.

And then it's too late to turn back. Her words fill the screen and my eyes trace over the words, cherishing each letter. She writes about how much she'll miss me. She writes that she is proud of me and has faith that I will thrive no matter where I am. I scan the last two sentences, and my heart nearly breaks.

No matter where you go, or where your life takes you, I hope that all roads lead you to happiness. As long as you are happy, Bella, nothing else matters.

I know what I have to do now.

My feet pound against the steps as I take them two at a time. "I'm going for a drive," I shout at Charlie and race out the door before he can respond.

The road whips by me and my mind is racing. I pull into the parking lot of the playground. I don't even know if this will end well for me, but I have to try. I almost get lost a few times, as I weave hurriedly through the trees. But finally I see the open spot of the meadow, and the inviting colors of the flowers ushering me forward.

I run out into the openness, my heart clenching in anticipation.

There is nothing but grass and flowers.

When I sent him away, did I banish him for good?

Then I hear a rustling noise behind me. I whip around and there he is, a few feet away from me. He looks just as sad and stony faced as when I last saw him.

I take a hesitant step forward. "Edward."

He blinks, and looks at me, as if I've just woken him from a trance. "Bella."

I should take my time and gage his reaction to my presence. But I don't. I rush forward and wrap my arms around him, burying my nose into his chest and breathing in his scent. It feels like I've come home.

Edward is still for a moment, and then he sighs softly and wraps his arms around me. "The situation hasn't changed Bella, you understand that?"

I shake my head. "It doesn't matter. Nothing matters, except you. I see you. I feel you. I love you. The rest of the world can go screw itself."

I don't know what we're going to do, or how we're going to make this work. But none of that matters right now. As long as Edward's holding me I feel like I can handle anything. As long as Edward's here, I can leave the rest of the world behind, and escape.