ENTRY FOR THE HIGH TIMES CONTEST

Story Name: Gateway

Rating: M

Genre: Angst

Pairing: Bella/James

Total Word Count: 2,726

Summary: A prelude. The Lost Years. Bella has met bad boy James and fallen head over heels - he was older, more experienced. So when he offered her that little white joint, why wouldn't she accept? Most say that marijuana isn't a gateway drug - but for Bella it was. And it left her all the worse for it.

A/N: Twilight is owned by Stephenie Meyer - not me. I do,however, own the following words.


It starts off with weed.

James is looking at me, I mean really looking at me. His eyes are looking into mine and they are ohsoblue. Or are they green. The colour of sea-green glass. Piercing.

Eerie.

It was that look that got me into trouble in the first place. One look from the older, perennial bad boy and I was hooked.

I wanted him. I wanted him bad.

So when he walked up to me and hooked his fingers into my belt loops I wasn't fazed. I acted as though this kind of thing happened to me all the time.

When really, on the inside, I was squealing like the 14 year old I was trying so hard to pretend I wasn't.

James didn't care about the age difference. And that night, in the bed of his truck, the stars above us, and under the influence of several shots of shitty peach schnapps, I let him kiss me. And maybe a little more.

And I was infatuated enough to think it was love.

So when he's looking at me now with that same stare - that soulful, I know what you need and I'm the only one who can give it to you stare, I know that I'll do anything he asks of me.

Dangerous, yes.

But also thrilling.

He holds out the perfectly rolled joint, holding it with just the tips of his fingers. Like it's precious.

Sometimes he holds on to me like that too. Like I'm fragile. Like I'll blow away.

Those are my favourite days. When he worships me. When his touch is gentle, adoring.

We hadn't had one of those in a while. So when he's holding out this joint like that, it's a promise. A sign of what could be, if only I would imbibe like him. Smoke like him. Be free like him.

So of course I do.

Because he's looking at me like that and I can't say no.

My first inhale is tentative. I don't want to make a fool out of myself in front of him and his friends. Alice is looking at me in awe, either impressed that I'm doing it or jealous that I got to go first.

I don't very much care which.

It's not so bad, so I take another drag, a deeper one. This time I can feel the coughs bubbling up but I manage to keep my cool. I look around for a drink though.

Cottonmouth.

James hands me a can, knowing. Always knowing. That boy can read me like a book. An old-timers book, with the large font.

I can't read him nearly as well.

Most of the time. Right now though, I can see he's proud. There's something else in his eyes though. A glint of something sinister. But I can't find it in myself to care. Because I'm floating. And James wraps his hands around my hips and pulls me to him, and I know that when I come down he'll catch me.

This time.

Smoking up becomes a regular thing, daily, sometimes twice daily. I become dependent on it, on James and his touches, to keep the deeper more sinister feelings and thoughts at bay.

And for a while it works. Until it doesn't any more.

One day weed isn't enough. James is always searching for that high, that rush. Something more. The mellow feeling that the marijuana gives him isn't enough anymore.

So when he discovers the new thing, the thing that everyone is raging about, the thing that will make you forget, make you euphoric, he's the first in line.

Pulling me right alongside.

He places the little white pill on his tongue. Methamphetamine, he tells me. He's smiling and happy and grinning at me so I'm smiling too. He motions for me to open up so I do. Because I need to forget.

And James promised me this would help.

I stick my tongue out and James gives it a playful nip, kissing me, before placing the pill on my tongue. Once I swallow, he places a hand on the back of my neck, pulling me to him. He kisses me long and hard and ohsodeep that I melt into him. His tongue stroking mine feels so good and I'm floating again, only higher than before.

Happier than before.

This new feeling is better, faster, more and I have James to thank.

So I thank him. That night, we have sex, and it's my first time but it doesn't hurt because I'm still floating and I can't feeling anything which is perfect. It's over quickly, or it takes forever, I'm not sure because Time with a capital T doesn't seem to matter anymore.

All I want is more.

I'm 14.

I'm 15, and meth in pill form isn't enough. We've taken to smoking it, big glassy chunks heated and inhaled, a quicker high, a faster release.

It numbs the pain.

Emmett visits me once or twice. He doesn't like the state I'm in. But fuck him, he left me. He tries to get me to leave with him, talk to someone, but James is all I need.

He's everything.

He reassures me when Emmett leaves, giving me words and touches that soothe and stop the pain.

But not completely. Only meth with do that now.

I'm caught up in James, spending all of my time at his shitty studio apartment. I'm lost in his presence, he is a drug to me. I always need moremoremore.

And then the ice isn't enough either. And James has found something new.

Something better. More. Moremoremore.

This something new is called MDMA, or ecstasy. It's happy in little white pill form.

Ecstasy: feel the love.

And I feel it. Ecstasy is a big warm hug from my favourite people. It keeps the big sadness at bay.

For a little while.

We go to clubs and rave all night. That night I see James all up on some other girl. His tongue is down her throat and I'm hurt. He's caused this hurt, instead of being my saviour and taking it away. So I walk out.

This is the first time I try to leave. I walk out the club, but I've barely left the parking lot when he's there and begging for my forgiveness. He says she means nothing, lessthannothing. She was there and he was high and he's ohsosorry and pleaseforgivemeI'lldoanything.

His words rush together and all I can think about it stopping the hurt and getting rid of the betrayal so I try out this forgiveness thing and it takes away that pain. It stops the hurt and I feel so good, so light that I nod at him and he sweeps me up. He takes me back inside and we dance for hours, his hands clutching me, holding me tight.

He says he can't live without me.

I don't want to live without him.

We walk home, sweaty and exhausted, the morning light peeking over the tops of the houses. We collapse into bed.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

The meth has increased James' libido. He wants it all time.

It's not rape because I agree but it's not lovemaking either.

I'm stuck in rut but I'm in too deep to see.

Emmett sees. He tries to contact me again and again, so much that James gets jealous and throws away my phone. He pushes me up against the wall, the cool brick scraping my flesh where it touches it. His hands are vices around my wrists, pinning me in place.

Prey, caught by the handsome, fearless predator.

I'm in so deep I don't care.

I welcome this possession. Crave it.

I don't notice when Emmett doesn't come by anymore. I don't notice when none of

my old friends do. There's only James. Jamesjamesjames.

And then Alice and Jake. But they hardly matter. They're still using meth, it's enough for them. It's not enough for James and I - and it's always JamesandI. Never just James. Never just me. We come as a pair. And we prefer our X.

It keeps the big sadness at bay.

Until it doesn't anymore and we need something else.

Something stronger.

Something stronger comes in the form of a fine white powder called cocaine. It doesn't last long, but when I take it I feel on top of the world. My heart beats fast, in time with James' and we lie with our chests together, revelling in it.

But cocaine doesn't numb the pain. It can make us forget but it intensifies. And this is something that doesn't sit well. James gets manic on it, hyper. He dances around and doesn't care if people see him naked. He tries to undress me too, but I resist. I still know there are other people in the room.

James doesn't care. He sees it as rejection. He gets angry. Hits me.

This is the second time I try to leave.

I go, out into the cold morning light, my lip starting to bruise. I think about going to Emmett, but I realise that I don't even know where he lives. I stop, dead cold in the middle of the street. Cars pass, honking as they go, but I'm frozen.

I think about where I can go, before realising that there is nowhere. No one wants me.

No one but James.

I've stood in the street too long. James is in front of me apologising and crying. Don't cry baby, he says, don't cry. I'm sorry i'msorryi'msorryi'msorry.

I don't even realise I am crying until his hands reach up to my cheeks and come away wet. His eyes are clear and pale, palepalepale in the morning light and he's piercing right through me. He's the onlyone who gets me.

He needs me he says. I need him, I think.

I fist my hands in his shirt and he pulls me to him, surrounding me in his big arms. He's sobbing, clutching at me like I might disappear. He promises to never do it again. nevernever.

And like a fool I believe him. I'm only 15, after all.

After that james tries to stop. We try to quit together.

But addiction suits him, and before long he's back on whatever he can find. But not cocaine. He slips me pills and I take them, the pain too much. I just need to numb the pain. I'm spiralling, falling and falling and falling and there's nothing anyone can do to stop me.

I'm tumbling down.

The final step in my spiral comes in the form of a brown powder that is heated and then sucked up by a syringe before being injected into my veins.

Heroin.

Magic.

Alice refuses to touch the stuff. She and Jake are firmly into speed and oxycodone, content with the rush and the high.

But James is looking at me again with his eyes, piercing me and asking me don't I want to try? Don't I want to forget?

And I do. I do I do I do.

So I nod, ever so slightly. The brown liquid is sucked up, air bubbles rid of and the cold tip of the needle pressed against my flesh. The tourniquet is already in place but I can't remember how it got there. I can't remember much of anything. All I know, all I see is James.

His eyes are looking at me. Seeing through me. He asks again isthisokay?

I nod. Keep the big sadness at bay. Make me whole.

The needle pierces my skin, filling me with a sweet, sweet rush that is better than any meat injection, better than any orgasm.

But then I'm dizzy and vomiting and James warned me this could happen but I don't care because that's just the first time.

And there will be many more after this.

I lie back and the dizziness stops. I lie and I'm calm and I'm not hurting. I've finally found the thing that will get rid of the big hurt. A warm weight lies next to me and I clutch at his hand. James and I sigh in tandem, our breath leaving us in a big rush.

We are one and we are none, fading away into nothing but the high and the numb.

I don't want to feel anything but this.

I'm 16.

For a while it's good. Heroin has managed to do what nothing else could. It's pure magic and I couldn't stop if I wanted to.

And I don't want to.

Until one day, we're in James' hole of an apartment and I hear screaming. A huge wail, coming from a hulk of a boy.

No one should ever make that noise. I wake up from a daze, and see Jake holding Alice in his arms, shaking her. Her head lolls back and forth and a white froth has dried at the corner of her mouth. She doesn't wake up.

Why won't she wake up?

I crawl over and pinch her, tell her to stopplayingcomeback.

But she doesn't.

There's a new noise that fills the room, a higher pitched wailing. It takes me a minute to recognise that it's coming from me and I'm crying because my best friend is dead.

Overdosed on oxycotin.

How poetic.

I don't know how to deal with this. James is yelling and Jake is still shaking her and there's talk about taking her to the hospital but there's no point because it's too late it's fartoolate.

At the funeral Alice's mum cries. I know this not because I attended - she wouldn't let me. Saw me as the instigator. None of us could come. I yelled at her. Where was she. Where was she when her daughter was fighting her demons and where was she when she died.

I know I'm partly to blame. Maybe completely to blame. But I can't even feel it because of the drug. Because of the magic brown liquid that fills my veins and takes away the hurt.

And then I realize I need to feel it. My best friend just died and I can't even feel it because I can't even remember the last time we had a conversation. All my time is spent with james. Alice may have been there but I didn't pay her any attention.

This is the last time I leave.

James, Jake and I are watching the funeral from afar, banned from the actual proceedings. I look to my left and see a broken boy, too large for his age due to steroids, and too haggard due to a love lost.

I look to my right and see a boy who's got nothing. His face is blankblankblank and I'm disgusted. A wave of revulsion creeps up through me and I retch and retch and retch into the grass, nothing being expelled because I haven't eaten in days, in weeks.

Heroin was all I needed.

Until now.

I can't live like this.

James is patting and rubbing my back, but I shrug him off. I tell him Ican'tdothis. I tell him that'senough. And then I run. I ignore his calls and run and run and run until I'm gasping for breath and retching and can'tbreathe.

I look up and look behind me but I'm alone. He didn't follow me. He thinks I'll be back.

I won't be back.

This is the last time I leave him. This is the last time I leave him, and I will not being

going back.

Enough. Enough now.

People are staring because it's the middle of winter and I'm only wearing a thin ragged top and fishnet stockings, my feet bare and why are they bare? I don't remember getting dressed this morning. I don't remember how I got here.

How did I get here?

I spy a phone booth but I've got no money. And no one to call. Who could I call?

I think and think and think until finally, finally I come up with a name.

I walk into the booth and call the operator, asking to place a collect call. I give them a name and hope and hope and hope that they will take my call. After what seems like forever, the call picks up.

"Bella?" asks an astonished voice.

"Emmett, I need your help."