Disclaimer: Twilight and all characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. *sigh* All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
If I'm incorrect in crediting the songs to the correct artist it is by mistake. It's what's in my iPod, folks.
Warning: contains topics of rape, abuse, and religion. If these things offend read another story.
Cause I've been housing all this doubt and insecurity and
I've been locked inside that house all the while You hold the key
And I've been dying to get out and that might be the death of me
And even though, there's no way in knowing where to go, promise I'm going because
I gotta get outta here
Cause I'm afraid that this complacency is something I can't shake
I gotta get outta here
And I'm begging You, I'm begging You, I'm begging You to be my escape.
"Be My Escape" by Relient K
I grabbed a table toward the back of the diner—away from the windows. Outside, the rain was coming down. Big shocker in Seattle, huh? I was playing with the business card in my hand. A card I should not be holding, and if I was smart I would have torn it up the second she slipped it to me. If he found out I had it…but he didn't find it. And now I was sitting in a run down diner, a little after midnight, wondering if it was courage or stupidity that had me thinking it would be a good idea to drop a line.
A kind looking, heavy-set waitress dragged herself to my table on tired feet. I knew how she felt, exhausted and forced to deal with others in order to make the cash. I shivered inside my soaked clothes, and Flo gave me a concerned look. Seriously, her name was Flo; it said so on her name tag.
I saw the look in her eyes and knew what she saw. Rain-drenched in an oversized purple hoodie wearing huge sunglasses at night, a bruised jaw and a busted lip. I got the same look from the other patrons in the diner. I ducked my head, not that it made me less noticeable, but just because I could not stand the pity.
"Can I get you sumthin', hun?"
I wondered if she took special waiting classes to learn that clichéd line or if anybody could do it.
"Coffee, please," I mumbled. Kind of hard to talk with a busted up mouth.
She came right back with my joe as I pulled the wet hoodie off over my head, but instead of taking a hike, she decided I needed some company. She sighed and said, "You waitin' on a friend?"
I shook my head and contemplated the missing 'g' in her vocabulary. Like the goddamn typewriter in Misery.
"Didgya wanna order sumthin' to eat?"
Flo's typewriter had bigger problems than a missing 'g,' I thought, but instead I said, "Just the coffee."
She nodded her head and turned to walk away, but stopped and said in a soft voice, "Ya know, sometimes the only way to get help is to ask for it."
Stupid Flo and her stupid name tag with her stupid after-school-special advice. But I thought of my options, and quite frankly, I was not looking forward to another beat down. Working was hard enough banged up as I was, and my ribs were still killing me. No, it wasn't courage or stupidity that had me walking to the payphone in the back of the diner; it was good old-fashioned fear.
The payphone was riddled with ABC gum and scribbling that said 'Troy wuz here' and even a few 'for a good time…'s. I wondered if Stacy, Lacy and Tiffany had to change their numbers. I slowly picked up the receiver, dropped a quarter in, and dialed the number on the card.
Just as I was about to chicken out and hang up, I heard her sweet voice in my ear. A simple 'hello' was all it took for me to put on my big girl panties and ask for the help Flo was talking about.
"Hi, is this Esme Cullen?"
My voice nearly deserted me, and I had to struggle to get the damn words out. I wanted to slam the phone down and puke, not necessarily in that order either. My palms were sweating, and my voice was shaky. And because my mouth was so dry, I kept trying to swallow to produce some spit to keep my blasted tongue from sticking to the roof of my mouth. It would be a miracle if I could even hold this convo, and slamming the phone down was sounding like a better idea by the second.
"Yes, this is Esme."
"Uh, yeah, you probably don't remember me, but I saw you once… Oh, this is Bella… I'm Bella, uh… You gave me your card…"
"Bella, of course I remember... King's Inn on Fifth. Are you alright?"
She remembered. She remembered me.
I guess I took too long to respond because her voice came through the line with a twinge of panic to it.
"Bella, are you there? Are you hurt?"
Her concern for me ripped me out of my stupor, and I said, "I'm here. I'm in some diner, and you told me to call you if I ever need help… I—I can't go back, Esme." I was crazy to call. It was stupid to take up her time, and I was worried that she would just tell me to go the police. But instead of apologizing for probably waking her up, I kept going with my stupid whining.
"And I don't know what to do because if I do go back, I'll probably be in a shit-load of trouble. And I can't do it, Esme… I'm really fucking scared." I jerked my hand back and wiped it on my jeans when I realized I'd been picking at some dried gum.
"Do they know that you're gone?"
"I slipped away from his guy and used the money from tonight to buy some different clothes and got a cab. But I don't have much left. If they find me…"
"Okay, everything will be alright. Tell me where you are, and I'll come get you."
I told her the name of the diner, and she told me to sit tight and wait until she got there. She stressed that I was safe as long as other people were around, and if they did find me, not to leave, no matter what. Sit tight—sounded easy enough.
I made my way back to the table, and was lost in thoughts of how things could go wrong, when Flo sat a plate with a burger and fries in front of me. She also set down a tall glass of Coke and picked up my cold, untouched coffee.
Confused, I said, "I didn't order this."
Flo just gave me a small smile and said, "My mistake. Shame since we'll just end up throwin' it away 'cause of health regulations. I'll tell ya what, it's on the house." Then, she just walked away.
I looked at the plate then back at Flo, who had made it back behind the counter. She just gave a small nod, and I had to blink away the tears that were threatening to fall because of her kindness. It was not something I was used to.
Burgers were a far cry from my usual diet, and I wanted to savor every greasy bite. I slid my shades off and slowly began to eat. I took small bites and chewed carefully, afraid that my lip might break open and bleed all over my tasty burger. My teeth were not in any better condition, and I could tell a few of them were loose.
I was slowly dragging a cold french fry through a pile of ketchup, debating on whether or not I wanted to eat it, when a throat cleared behind me. I jumped and reached for my sunglasses, but a light touch on my shoulder stopped me. I turned to see Esme's beautiful face smiling down at me.
"I didn't mean to startle you." Her smile fell when she saw the bruises on my face, and she brought a small hand in to gently stroke my cheek. "Oh Bella, what did he do to you?"
I didn't answer because it was pretty clear what the asshole did to me. I just took the small comfort from her soft fingers, trying to soothe away the pain. This was why I never forgot Esme. She never looked at me with disdain, and the compassion in her eyes was real. I was real. She saw past the short flimsy dress, high heels and make-up. Esme never treated me like a whore, and she didn't act like I was a burden.
"Can I sit down for a while? I hope you don't mind, but I brought my son," she said while nodding in the direction of a tall burly guy at the counter who was talking to Flo.
Taking in the sight of him had me tensing up. It's not that men made me nervous, I just didn't trust them. Hell, if I was being honest, I didn't trust women either. They were capable of being just as cruel, if not worse, than men. Judging by pure body mass alone, I knew this guy could cause some serious damage.
However, when Esme's son turned around, the first thing I noticed was the stupid grin on his face. Dimples—the sonofabitch had dimples. As he strolled up to the table, I thought the best game plan was to remain aloof. Who was he to me? Nobody. I didn't trust him, no matter whose son he was. But I couldn't deny the fact that his shit eating grin was causing the corners of my own mouth to tilt upward. Damn.
"Bella, this is my son, Emmett. Emmett, this is Isabella."
He sat down and slid a coffee over to Esme as she murmured the intro. I went over it again in my head as I nodded to Emmett. It was odd to be introduced by my actual given name instead of 'Angela', the name Heidi and Demetri gave me. As a silence settled over the table, I realized they were waiting for a response from me. I guess I was just used to the quiet, but they probably were not. No, they looked like they were used to laughter, sharing stories and warm fuzzy feelings.
"You know, that's the first time in a long time that anyone's recognized me as Isabella."
Esme's eyebrows shot up as she asked, "Oh, do you prefer Bella."
I just smiled and shook my head, and said, "It doesn't matter."
To be honest, I didn't know what made me tell Esme my real name. I first thought maybe it was because that was my first time getting picked up by the cops, and I didn't see the point in lying. It wasn't like I was giving up Demetri's or Heidi's name. Perhaps it was because she was so kind and actually treated me with respect. Who knows?
After being released, I quickly hid her card in the heel of one of the cheap shoes I was forced into the night before. After every rough night with a trick or a beating from Demetri, I took out her card while everyone else slept and gently stroked the raised lettering and wondered if she remembered me. I would wonder what I would say if she answered my call. I also worried about her changing her number. I quickly memorized the number, afraid of being found with the card. On the mornings Heidi was away, and I was forced to lay still beneath a sleeping Demetri, I repeated her name and the number in my head—like counting sheep until I fell asleep.
"Why is he here?" I didn't mean to blurt it out, but I was just too tired to care about my missing filter.
"Emmett's here for our protection, in case they send someone after you."
He gave me his dimpled smile, and I relaxed a bit. He was here for 'our' protection.
"Don't worry, little Bella. Nobody can hurt you while I'm around."
I just smiled, at least I hoped it looked like a smile. How could he make that promise? The truth was, he couldn't. He didn't know these people like I did. They took pleasure in other people's pain. They were sick and demented, and now Esme was in danger because she was helping me. I tried to stuff down the feelings of guilt my selfishness stirred. I didn't think of how this could affect her, and for the first time, I was regretting listening to Flo.
"Bella, if you're finished, I would like to talk about where you want to go from here. If it makes you feel better, Emmett can move back to the counter."
I shook my head and said, "He's fine."
Emmett visibly relaxed, like he was relieved to pass a test I unknowingly put him through, and motioned to Flo.
"Hope you ladies don't mind, but Flo offered me some of her pie," he said while waggling his eyebrows. I didn't think he meant for it to sound dirty, but that did not stop Esme from dressing him down.
His pout did not stay on his face for long, and he lit up like a kid on Christmas morning as soon as Flo set down a large, flaky slice for the rather large guy.
With a shake of her head, Esme continued, "Do you need us to take you to the hospital?"
"No," I whispered. I had learned that hospitals cost money—money I didn't have, not to mention questions I would rather not answer.
"Well, I really wish you would reconsider. Bella, I'm going to be blunt with you. If we take you to a shelter, how long would it take your pimp to find you, abuse you and then force you to turn more tricks?"
I had to swallow the lump that formed in my throat before I could say, "Not very long. If I'm lucky, a couple of days."
I was not stupid. I knew when Demetri and Heidi found out what happened tonight, they would come looking for me. And when they found me, I would pay dearly for crossing them. They would make an example of me. If they didn't kill me, I would definitely be wishing for death.
She took a deep breath, and with a determined look on her face, she said something I that managed to baffle me completely.
"I want you to come home with us."
AN: I also want to thank Kimmydonn and kas90 from Project Team Beta for doing a wonderful job beta-ing this for me!Let me know what you think :)