I do not own Twilight. The characters in this O/s are almost 100% OOC.
Thank you, 22blue, for listening, giving me your thoughts, and for holding both of my hands.
This is unbeta'd, so all mistakes are mine.
Please Read Before You Start: To be candid, I debated on posting this at all. In my mind, Twific is here for our entertainment, not to make moral statements or judgments. Ultimately, however, I decided to go ahead and put this out there because I think there's some value in looking at subject matter realistically, even if it's in the context of fan fiction.
This short story is not pleasant, nor is it beautiful, sweet, sexy, or romantic. It's not meant to be at all. It's very graphic, very violent, very disturbing, and very awful. The content is deliberately shocking. It is not meant to be titillating in any way whatsoever.
There are no rainbows or HEAs here. There is a statement, however, and there are a few truths that I hope you will take away if you choose to read.
If you choose to not read, I understand and I don't blame you at all. I'd still ask that you skip down to the a/n at the bottom. The real message is there.
A final note on story structure: the date notation for each segment is important. There are a couple of jumps back and forth in time.
Thanks for your time and for reading,
By a divine paradox, wherever there is one slave there are two.
So in the wonderful reciprocities of being,
we can never reach the higher levels
until all our fellows ascend with us.
[May 5, 2010]
My name is Isabella.
I used to go by the name Bella Swan. That was what my parents and my friends called me. That was what my birth certificate said.
Because to them I was beautiful.
It's childish to think of these things, but I do sometimes.
Years ago, I had a home and a family. I was an average kid in an average life. My mom, Renee, stayed at home, and my dad, Charlie, was a cop. We didn't have a lot of money, but we got by okay.
We lived in a little white Cape Cod in a tiny town called Forks, in Washington State. My room was on the second floor. It was small, but I had an amazing bay window with a window seat. When I was eight, I'd decorated it in twenty shades of purple because I hated the color white. My space was comfortable, and the colors made me smile years later, so I never bothered to change anything, even when I got older.
Really, the only thing that changed over time was my books. I had a thing for reading, especially the classic romances, so my dad built me some shelves by my bed. They were full and double stacked by the time I hit eleventh grade.
The rest of the house was maybe a little dated, but it was warm. There were yellow cabinets in the kitchen because they reminded my mom of the sun we never saw, and on the mantle in the living room, there were dozens of mismatched frames with pictures. Outside, the back yard was always covered in leaves. It was so green there, and there were so many trees nearby. It rains a lot where I lived, so every time I walked out onto the porch, I could smell them the freshly fallen leaves. It was like being in the middle of a forest. The air was always clean and earthy.
When I turned sixteen, my dad bought me this old, beat-up Chevrolet truck that was the color of rust. The engine was as loud as sin and the gas mileage was embarrassing, but I loved that truck. I loved driving it to school and to my part time job at the local sporting goods store.
That truck was freedom.
I used to roll down the windows and let my hair blow in the wind on my way out to La Push to see my friend Jake. I'd crank up the ancient stereo that could only play AM stations. Usually, all I ever heard were static-filled country songs about beer and dogs and trains.
It didn't matter. I loved it because it was mine.
Back then, I had a good life.
I had friends.
I had a family.
I had a name. And I was loved.
But I'm not supposed to talk about any of that now. If I do, there will be consequences.
The last time I made that mistake I couldn't walk for two days, and he had to call in a doctor to make the bleeding stop between my legs.
No, I've learned it's just best to be quiet during the day and to do whatever he says. Four days ago, standing outside in a park and surrounded by people, I gave up all hope.
My name is no longer Bella Swan. It's just Isabella.
No matter how much it hurts. No matter how hard it is to swallow back the vomit that burns my throat when he touches me. No matter how much my eyes sting with tears, I keep silent and pretend that I'm dreaming, that this isn't real.
I save my crying for when it's dark and he can't see.
[September 13, 2008]
"Come on, Bella!" Angela giggles. "It'll be fun! Just us girls!"
"It's kind of far…" I hesitate, already calculating the time and distance. Really, I'm thinking that my mom will want to have me home tonight. Before I left this morning, I saw the ingredients she'd laid out on the counter… red velvet - my favorite.
"We'll take turns driving if we need to. We haven't been since July! Forks is so boring… Please?"
Angela and Jessica want to drive into Seattle to celebrate because today's my birthday.
I'm now a senior in high school, but I've spent the past two weeks filling out college applications. Maybe it's early, but I don't care. Unlike most of the people I'm in school with, I know exactly what I want to do and where I want to go.
I've got the GPA and the test scores to get in. The money is a little tougher to come by, but I'm pretty sure that I'll win a few scholarships because of my academics and my financial situation. If not, I'll take out a loan. It'll be worth it, because I'm going all the way. I want to teach. Not in high school, though, because I don't know if I can stand dealing with kids like Mike Newton all day. No, I want to teach college, so that means I have a lot of years of studying ahead of me. I don't mind at all.
"I don't know, Ang…" I start.
"Come on, B, we can totally hit up Barnes and Noble. I won't whine at all," Jessica promises.
It's all I can do to not laugh at her fake pouty lips and puppy dog eyes. But Jess knows exactly where to hit me. I need new books, something new and exciting maybe. The library in Forks is… sad. Sure, I could order online, but I want to smell the pages mixed with the aroma of Starbucks. Okay, and maybe I'd like to see if the hot guy who flirted with me last time still works there.
"Fine, let's do it!" I relent. "But let me call my mom first to make sure she doesn't mind. I don't want to hurt her feelings."
My mom is the best.
"You're not a baby anymore, sweetheart. You're eighteen now," she says. "It's your birthday, so you should have fun. Stay in the good areas, though. Promise? There are a lot of crazies out there. And don't split up from Ang and Jessica… Call me if it gets late, okay?"
It takes forever to finally get there. Traffic is bad, and none of us really know where we are going. We end up doing a couple of loops, but finally, we make it. Angela parks on a side street that's kind of in the middle of where we want to be. A few blocks away, there are some shops that she and Jess really want to check out. My book heaven is somewhere behind us.
Because it is my day after all, we start out in Barnes and Noble. It's like… the best place ever. I could get lost in here, and for a while, I kind of do, forgetting that there are two fashion-starved girls trailing behind me.
I spend maybe an hour going from shelf to shelf. There's a new hardback out by my favorite author that I can't resist, and I even find a few titles that I'd just heard about. When I settle down into one of the navy blue side chairs, I hear a huff. I look up only to find two pairs of eyes rolling and smiling at once.
"Hey, why don't you guys go on ahead? You know I don't care about Betsey whoever. I can meet up with you for dinner."
"No, it's fine, Bella." Angela grins. "It's your day."
"Really! Go on! I could be here for another two hours and be happy."
Jessica plops down on the armrest beside me. "Seriously? Are you sure? There's this awesome skirt in the window, and I think it had a sale tag!"
"Yes, I swear. Go for it. I'll catch up."
Angela smiles and tugs on my ponytail. "If you're sure… call us when you're done?"
Later, when I look up from my book and down at my watch, I see that it's already past seven. Looking through the tall front windows, the sun has already gone down, and it's dark outside. I hadn't meant to spend this much time in here. I pull my phone out and see that Angela texted me, saying that they'd gone a few more blocks down the street and for me to meet them when I'm ready. The little LED in the corner is blinking, too, and I realize that I forgot to charge my battery last night.
Still looking down at my phone, I make my way through the stacks toward the front.
Before I know what's happening, I run into what has to be a brick wall and hear a loud "Umph!"
"Oh, God, I'm sorry," I stammer, bending down to collect the stack of books I dropped. "I wasn't-"
"It's all right," a gravelly voice answers. It's low and there's something about the pitch that doesn't sit right almost immediately. "I'll never complain when a pretty girl like you runs into me."
"Ah, yeah, I'm sorry," I apologize again.
I finally look up, and there's a guy staring down at me. He's directly in front of me, blocking my way.
This guy is older than me, somewhere in his twenties or maybe even thirties. He's about a foot taller than my 5'2" frame, so he's somewhere north of 6'. He's really… hard and lean, like a boxer or something. Even though he's covered up with a black t-shirt and faded jeans, I can tell there's not a bit of fat on him. It's no wonder it felt like I'd run into a wall.
I try not to grimace because it's rude, but he's got stringy blond hair that's pulled back behind his head, and there's a dark tattoo that wraps around his neck like a snake. His lips are chapped, too, and his eyes are this weird icy blue.
But what I really notice is the way he's looking down at me like he wants to eat me. This is not like the way Jake or Mike looks at me when they've been drinking and are asking me out. No, this guy makes my skin crawl, even though I don't know him at all. He just gives off this vibe.
He doesn't hide the fact that he's staring at my chest, either, and when I finally notice that he's still holding on to my wrist, alarm bells clang in my ears.
"I have to go. Running late." I smile and try to act like I'm not creeped out.
"Oh come on, you've been here for hours. What's a few more minutes? What's your name, pretty girl? I'm James."
My stomach does a nosedive because I just heard something that I really didn't want to hear.
"No, really. My friends," and I emphasize the word 'friends' and hold up my cell, "are expecting me. They'll be worried."
With a wink, the guy smiles back, and behind his chapped lips, I see a row of crooked teeth. "That's a shame. Maybe we'll see each other again."
"Yeah, okay," I mutter. When he shifts to the side, I speed past and head straight for the counter. The lady who checks me out notices that I'm in a hurry and asks if everything is fine. Really, all I want to do is leave and find Ang and Jess, so I smile and laugh her comments off.
A few minutes later, I'm out on the street, arms full and hurrying toward the shop that Angela texted me. It's a lot farther than I realized, and I think it's on one of the side streets. It takes me a while to get there because I have to double back a couple of times. Part of it is that I'm preoccupied. The whole way, I'm still trying to shrug off the bad vibe that I got from that guy in the bookstore. I keep replaying the scene over and over, hoping to convince myself that I overreacted, that I've been watching too much SVU.
By the time I make it to the shop, I realize that the lights are dim and the sign has been flipped to 'Closed'.
"Damn it," I curse, as I set my bag on the ground so that I can find my phone.
It's really dark here, much darker than I'd noticed when I was focused on just finding the place. The street lamp overhead is out and the nearest one is half a block down. When I look around, I'm the only one here.
There's some garbage at the corner and some neon pink flyers for some concert paint the pavement. But other than that, it's just me. My phone is beeping at me, though. The battery is really gone now, but there's a missed call and another text, this time from Jessica.
OMG you're going to love this dress! So hot! Store closed now. Meet you at the restaurant!
I missed them by twenty minutes. They are probably at the restaurant already, wondering where I am.
I sigh and lean over to pick up my bag. My heart is sputtering a little. I know it's silly, but I've still not let go of that creeped out feeling. The dark is just making it worse.
"Well, look who it is." The voice is loud and laughing.
My head shoots up and I see three figures maybe twenty yards away. Instantly, my blood turns to ice, and a shiver rolls across my skin.
Even in the dark, I can see that lean outline and the shape of his stringy hair. It's him, I know it, the one from the store. But now he's not alone. There's a shorter one in a black leather jacket to his right and this huge football player looking guy on his left.
He followed me.
I swallow and my mind spins back to that afternoon with my dad when he was in cop mode. A girl had been raped in Port Angeles, and he freaked out. My knuckles were bruised by the end of his lesson, but I knew how to hit because of it. But now… now, I can't remember where to punch and where to knee, because my thoughts are all fuzzy, and all I can hear is the sound of blood rushing between my ears.
I need to scream because everything about this feels wrong. I need to start walking back to the main street where there are people and lights, but my entire body locks down in fear. Vaguely, I'm aware of my breathing, harsh and loud, but it's like I'm in some kind of altered reality where time is slow and my limbs are heavy.
When they are maybe ten yards away, it's like lightning zaps me. My feet finally decide to move and my voice spits out a hoarse scream that comes out something like "No! Get away from me!"
But they're faster than me, and the next thing I know, my face slams into cinderblocks, and there's a body flush against mine, pressing me into the wall. My ribcage hurts and I can't breathe.
His mouth is hot and he's whispering in my ear, "Come on now, pretty girl, this won't be so bad if you don't struggle. If you're good and tight, I've got someone who might be interested."
I don't know what he means, but terror spikes my blood and makes my knees buckle. Tears are now rolling down my face, and I sob when I feel him. His penis is hard, even through jeans, and it's rubbing into my lower back.
With everything I have, I push back against him and try to yank his hair. I try to hit and kick him, but then my arms are jerked and held down by the other two men. When denim scrapes down my legs and air hits my backside, I scream and scream, even when his hand muffles my mouth.
The smell and taste of his sweaty skin makes my esophagus flood with vomit. But I don't have time to think because suddenly there's pain like I've never experienced before.
So much pain.
My body is being invaded and shoved repeatedly into the cinderblock wall. It feels like my insides are splitting and I'm on fire. I cry from it, from the pain, from fear, from knowing that I can't stop it.
"Holy fuck, she's a virgin," he grunts as he invades me over and over and over. "Has to be... So fucking tight… Goddamn."
"No," I sob, but no one can hear me. It feels like it takes him forever, and eventually I go limp, having nothing left in me to fight.
Inside, I'm dying. I'm numb and I can't think beyond the word, "No."
When he's done, he pulls out and spins me around to face him. "Clean yourself up," he orders and throws me a greasy cloth.
Something wet drips down my thigh. I double over and I smell him and something metallic. Without warning, my stomach heaves violently onto the pavement.
I think they'll leave me alone now. I beg for them to just go. But I'm wrong.
This man James grabs me by the hair. He lifts me up onto my tiptoes until I swear my scalp is burning and his arm flies across my face. My head whips from the force, and there's a bloom of pain deep in my right jaw.
He slaps me hard across the face again, this time on the left side, and laughs. "He's going to love you."
[September 17, 2008]
"Open your mouth, whore."
I cry so much and shake my head. This can't be happening to me. It's not real. It can't be. I'm in some nightmare that just won't stop.
"Isabella, suck my cock," James demands, shoving his penis between my lips. It's hard and too big for my mouth, so I gag when it hits my throat. I choke and I can taste bile. "If you bite me, I'll beat you so hard you won't be able to see for a week."
And he will, too. I know it. My face is so bruised from being hit that I can't recognize myself in the mirror, and my ribs are now blue. I think some of them are broken. He's raped me three more times since they took me. Once, he beat me while he was doing it. I hurt everywhere.
When I close my eyes, I can see my mother's face. I wonder if my dad is looking for me.
I want to die.
"Please, no," I cry, but it's no use.
[November 30, 2008]
"You will sleep here," a new man tells me.
I stare numbly into a small room that's painted all in white. There's a small window that lets just a little bit of light in and in the corner, there's a bed. Like the room, it's white. White sheets, white pillows, white blanket. It makes the room look sterile.
There are fingers suddenly wrapped around my throat, not too tight, but enough to make me look up for a moment and wince.
"These walls are soundproof. The window?" He points. "It's bulletproof glass. You aren't the first."
I nod silently because I know what he's saying. We're in an apartment building, a nice one from the looks of it, and there are people nearby, but no one will hear me if I scream. He's also just told me that I'm expendable.
"Do you know the rules, Isabella?"
"Yes, sir," I whisper, staring down at the floor. My heart is thumping loudly against my ribcage. But it's a strange kind of terror that lives inside of me now. It's no longer frantic and pulsing. It's a resigned, tired fear that makes me think I'm giving up.
There's a small part of me that has somehow managed to hold on to anger. That part of me wants to spit on his face. But I don't because that larger part of me has been broken by James and his men.
That part is growing every day, too. It wasn't so long ago that my only thought was of how I'd pay for college. Now, I feel worthless and dirty, and at night, my chest aches from my silent sobs.
"Say them," he commands. His voice is hard and his fingers curl tighter around my throat. I look up again and see this new man. I think James called him Edward. But I don't really remember.
I try to stay upright, fearing the repercussions if I don't. I know that I'm meaningless to him. I know that he will hurt me, that he will use me and likely discard me. The other girl that James took, a blonde named Rosalie who shared my cell, told me all about underground circuits and what to expect. She had been traded before.
I now have a bed instead of a dirty pallet on the floor, but my situation is not different. Only my address has changed. And now I'm on birth control. I'm glad, too, because I can't imagine the horror of the alternative in this place.
Rosalie was lucky, because she managed to kill herself the day before I was sold.
This new man - Edward, maybe - is tall like James and built the same way. Unlike James, however, he's dressed well. His skin is clean and his teeth are straight and white. His hair is fashionably tousled and it reminds me of the leaves in October. His eyes are a dark emerald color, but I can't stand to look at them because they make me shudder. I see hunger and violence in them as he stares at my naked body.
Outwardly, he doesn't look like the type… but he is. It doesn't really matter. He's no different.
And I hate him regardless of his clothes or his face or his name.
My voice sounds flat in my ears. "Do not speak to anyone unless you tell me to. Do not answer the door or pick up the phone."
"What else?" He pulls my head back to look up at him. A small whimper escapes because he is rough and his fingers bite hard, but my vocalization only makes him smile.
"Do not try to escape," I whisper, as I blink away hot tears.
"Good girl. Now on your knees."
[January 29, 2009]
I'm alone in the apartment. This is the fourth time since I arrived that I've been left by myself.
There is a special lock on the door so that I can't escape. It requires a key to be unlocked, from the inside or the outside. Edward told me that I couldn't get far anyway. James had a microchip embedded in my skin.
Like a dog.
For some reason, however, every day, he makes me repeat the rules out loud.
I rolled my eyes once on accident.
Edward doesn't hit as hard or as often as James, but he knows exactly where to land the blows so that I feel them for days.
But he likes to have sex. A lot. When he pushes me down on the mattress and forces himself between my thighs, it doesn't hurt as badly as when James did, but it's worse because some days he tries to kiss me. He likes to tell me how beautiful I am and he touches my hair.
When I don't open my mouth for him or when I cry, he gets angry and it hurts. If I kiss him back, it's over faster.
I'm a good kisser.
Sometimes my body betrays me and responds to him. He loves that. I want to kill myself, but I've just learned to throw up in the shower afterward. The water hides my retching, but it doesn't do anything to clean me.
Today, I have to vacuum and prepare dinner. Vacuuming is easy enough and in a way it allows me a moment of relaxation. I can get lost in the sound and forget where I am. It reminds me of the chores I used to do back home.
"Stop," I tell myself, biting the inside of my cheek hard enough that I can taste blood. I can't think about home. Or my mom or dad. I can't go there.
They don't exist. I don't exist. I'm not really here.
It's hard to cook when there are no knives. Or at least the ones Edward has are in locked drawers because he doesn't trust me.
I fantasize about those knives sometimes, even though I doubt that I could use one. It's difficult to reconcile the fear that I have the fear of the unknown if I were to succeed. I think that maybe James would find me anyway.
Deep down, I think that I should be stronger than I am and the fact that I'm not disgusts me. I don't understand why my brain doesn't work right any more. My thoughts are useless and they make so little sense. I'm nothing.
Knives or no knives, Edward is having friends over and he wants the table set by seven o'clock. I still don't know what he does. I think it's something to do with the stock market or finances because he watches ticker symbols on TV and talks on his cell phone a lot. It's not like I need to know.
The kitchen smells of sage and oregano. It smells good and the sauce I've made tastes good, too. With each tick of the oven timer, however, my heart speeds and my breathing turns shallow.
I'm supposed to serve them during dinner. But the outfit he laid out tells me something else. The skirt will barely cover me at all and he told me no underwear. He told me to be… polite and hospitable.
When I hear the door click, I swallow back a salty lump and make my way to the dining room. The food is still steaming, thank God. In addition to the pasta dish, I made his favorite dessert, hoping that I was wrong about the clothes and that he would not let his friends touch me. I pray for that little bit of mercy, because it's bad enough when he does.
Like every night, I wait and stand beside Edward's chair at the head of the table so that I can serve him. He likes that. He likes seeing me bent over the table. Sometimes he touches my legs and rear while I fill his plate. Sometimes he pushes my chest down onto the tabletop and lifts my skirt. He doesn't even bother to remove his clothes; he just unzips. When he's done with me, he makes me fix him another plate and clean up the mess.
I don't know what's worse: that or the times he kisses me.
He calls my name and I lift my eyes only slightly. My stomach lurches, and a terrified tremble races down my spine. There are two men there with him that I've never seen. They are laughing in their designer polo shirts and eying me in ways that tells me that my prayers will go unanswered tonight.
God doesn't listen to me anymore.
[April 5, 2009]
"Goddamnit, Isabella," he grates. "Why do you make me do this to you?"
My nose and lip are bleeding from his fist, and I think my shoulder is maybe even dislocated from the angle I hit the floor. I heard a crunch and it feels like knives are piercing my skin.
"I'm sorry, sir," I whisper. The salt from my tears makes the cut on my lip burn.
Edward grabs me by my upper arm and yanks me to my feet. His fingers squeeze so tightly that I know there will be purple fingerprints there tomorrow. I stumble behind him as he drags me to the laundry room.
"What do you call this?" he snaps, grabbing one of his expensive dress shirts. He shoves it in my face and then throws it to the ground.
Confused, I don't know how to answer because when he is like this, no matter what I say, it will be wrong. Some days I've learned to expect this. He comes back to the apartment, and I just know from the way he glares at everything that there's nothing that can make things right. Today is one of those days. So I say I'm sorry over and over.
And I am sorry. For whatever I've done.
For being alive.
"How many times do I have to tell you how to do this?" he yells.
"I'll do better," I promise, even though I still don't know what I did wrong. I'm pleading now. It's disgusting and weak, but I don't care. "Please don't hit me." I whisper.
His eyes soften for a moment and his grip loosens. Gently almost, he brushes my hair back away from my face. His mouth is at my ear, so close that the gritty stubble on his chin scrapes my skin, and he's stroking my back underneath my t-shirt.
"I hate it when you make me like this. I don't like hitting you. You know that, right? No more fucking up, okay?" Edward murmurs.
In my head, I'm calling him a liar, but I nod furiously, biting back more sobs.
He's pleased with my apparent sincerity, and he kisses my neck. His tongue is all over me, wet and slimy, and it takes everything I have to not pull away. Softer, in that voice that I despise, the one that he thinks is seductive and smooth, he tells me, "I'll let you make it up to me, how's that?"
I close my eyes and I nod again, this time slowly and sadly, because it doesn't matter what I say.
[July 17, 2009]
"Isabella? Why don't you run get the mail now?"
Edward says this with a smile, like he's giving me a present.
He is. This is the best present he's ever given me.
Since April, he started giving me things as rewards - less skimpy clothes that I can wear when he's not here, a magazine subscription, and even a necklace. I nearly laughed when I saw the heart-shaped pendent. But I wear it because I'm afraid of not wearing it.
Sometimes he lets me read his books when I've finished my chores - he has his own library room - but they don't really interest me now. Why read about worlds that I cannot have?
But this. This is the best part of my day. For the past two weeks, every afternoon he lets me walk down the stairs all ten flights to the row of brass mailboxes in the lobby.
It's the closest thing to freedom I have, and I make every single step count. There are exactly one-hundred and fifty steps, and I take each one as slowly as I can without it being obvious. Every day, when I open the stairwell door at the bottom, I take a deep breath. The air there is fresh. It strange to say that because I'm still indoors, but down there, I can smell hints of outside - car exhaust and cooking hotdogs and bratwurst. It makes my stomach growl.
E. A. Cullen, 11-325
I pause in front of his box. Dimly, I'm aware that I live on the eleventh floor in apartment number three twenty-five. There's a street name listed on the envelopes, but really, all I know is that I'm in Chicago somewhere.
Just as I'm closing the box, there's a clang to my right, and a dark haired girl bounds through the front door. Her hair is choppy and short and very modern. She's dressed to the nines and she's wearing the biggest grin on her face. It's like she won the lottery. She looked like that yesterday, too.
I saw her twice last week, and this week, I've seen her four days in a row. Each time she smiles at me like we could be friends.
She thinks I live here, too.
I do. Just not in the way she believes.
It's dangerous, though, because three times, she's tried to speak to me. That's against the rules, so each time, I pretended that I couldn't hear her and ran upstairs. That first day, I cried for an hour afterward.
Inwardly, I cringe because I need to run away again. I shake my head quickly, just a little movement, and turn to leave.
"Wait! You're always running!" she says with a tinkling laugh. Her voice carries and bounces off the marble tile. Before I can open the door, there's a hand on my forearm and my whole body shivers.
"Are you new? I'm Alice." She's so… happy.
I don't know what to do. I can't cause a scene by being rude, but I'm petrified of breaking one of Edward's rules, even if he's not here to know it. I just know that he will find out if I do, however, so I shake my head again and try to pull away.
But she's having none of it and holds on to my arm. There's part of me, a huge part, that surges at the idea of speaking.
To someone. Anyone.
To this girl who doesn't know me from Adam.
This girl who thinks that I'm her neighbor.
I know that I'm trembling and fidgeting and that she can feel it. But I turn anyway. I don't dare look at her - I can't - but my lips make what I think is a small greeting. While it's barely above a whisper, it's at once elating and terrifying.
She doesn't answer for a moment and I risk a glance up. She looks confused. Her forehead is folded and her dark eyes are studying me as if I'm some creature in a zoo. I wonder if she can see the lingering tint of yellow on my cheek.
The grip on my arm loosens, but she still doesn't let go. Softly, she - Alice - asks, "Hey, are you okay?"
Tears pool in my eyes, but I don't let them fall.
No. No, I'm not okay, I want to say. I'm nothing close to okay. There is nothing about my life that is okay. I don't say that, however. I'm not stupid. Edward has warned me enough.
"I'm fine," I finally answer. I've taken far too long now. If I don't get back soon, there will be hell to pay, and he won't let me out again. "Thank you for asking, but I have to go now."
"What's your name?" she asks. Her voice is even softer now. It's like she's soothing a wounded animal.
"Bella," I whisper.
I run up all ten flights of stairs because I'm afraid deathly afraid. My heart is pounding and my legs are shaking. I don't know what to expect, what I'll find. I also don't know what to do about Alice. I've broken the first rule, and I'm not sure what will be worse: admitting it or waiting to see if he finds out.
My race stops short the moment I stumble through the hallway door. Edward is there, shirtless and leaning against the doorframe with his hands tucked into his pockets. His jaw is hard and rolling with unveiled fury. He's glaring at me like he's going to kill me, and I know that somehow, he knows.
"Do you have something you want to tell me, Isabella?" His voice is cold and menacing.
Dread sinks my stomach and automatically, I fall to my knees and scrabble for his zipper. It's the first time I've ever initiated anything physical, but for just a split second, I think that maybe I can beg for my forgiveness this way.
"Oh, no you don't," he shouts, as his fingers wind through my hair and yank me up by the roots. "I'll take that when I want it."
I hear myself blubbering, explaining that I didn't know what to do, that she approached me.
My pleas fall on deaf ears.
"What's the first rule?" he demands. He's pulling me by my hair toward my little room.
"Don't– don't speak to anyone," I whimper.
I feel my body flying across the room, only stopping when my spine slams into the edge of the mattress. The impact sends lightning bolts of agony through my back and legs. I cry out, but then he's there and dragging me up on the bed. His weight is on my hips and his legs straddle my torso, pinning me where I can't move or get away.
He's hurling names at me, calling me slut and whore and worthless bitch, as he backhands me across my jaw. In some kind of instinct, I try to block his blows by crossing my arms in front of my face. I even try to hit him back. It's like I'm on autopilot and somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear myself screaming for my father, futilely begging him to save me from this hell.
That just makes him even madder. Edward is so much stronger than me and he manages to hold both of my wrists in one of his hands.
He hits me so hard. Harder than James ever did.
"Don't." Smack. "You." Smack. "Ever." Smack. "Disobey." Smack. "Me." Smack. "Again."
I'm a mess of sobs and mucous and blood. My chest aches from my harsh breathing and my face feels like it's been shattered.
When I go limp, he leans over and growls, "Now, since you offered so nicely." Above me, his eyes are dark and still so angry. I've never seen him like this and I'm more terrified now than I've ever been.
Roughly, he flips me over and in one motion, jerks my pants down around my ankles. His palm splays out across the back of my head, forcing my face into the pillow. I gag when I smell the sickening perfume of the strawberry shampoo he makes me use.
The zip of his pants makes me flinch. Then there is the ugly sound of flesh stroking flesh, of him getting himself hard. It doesn't take long.
I'm expecting the usual invasion, so I brace myself, knowing that it will hurt because he's so furious, knowing that he is planning to break me this way, too. But he doesn't take me that way. Instead, he spits on my rear and his fingers are suddenly there, rubbing his saliva on me, in me, in a place that he's not touched before. He spits a few more times and then he punishes me by splitting my lower half in two.
My scream is blood curdling, but he muffles it by shoving my face deeper into the pillow. Above me, as he moves, he grunts so loudly and grabs at my thighs to hold me down. In some brief second of mercy, I black out before he shoves into me a third time.
[January 6, 2010]
For the past six months things have been different. Not really. But…maybe?
I never, ever leave the apartment.
In September, almost a year to the day when I was taken, there was a horrific moment one afternoon when the girl from downstairs, Alice, knocked on the door. It was clear what she was doing, even though all she spoke of was some petition for the building's advisory board. She and I made eye contact for less than a second while Edward answered her.
She suspects something is wrong. Of that I'm certain, because she spoke too loudly when she told him her apartment number, 09-213. I think that she has confronted Edward about me, too, because three different times, I've heard Edward cursing her and calling her a nosy bitch under his breath.
But that doesn't change anything for me, so I walk around the apartment in a listless daze. Since that afternoon in July, I've lost all sense of time and my days blur together. They're all the same anyway.
I wake up in the morning at six o'clock. I prepare Edward's breakfast - he likes his eggs over easy. During the day, after he's left in his expensive suit and tie, I clean. Most days, I scrub the bathroom floors by hand as an outlet.
I love the smell of bleach. It overpowers everything else - cologne, strawberries, sex. Sometimes, I pour it on my hands on purpose. If I don't immediately wash it off, it burns and it makes my skin feel slimy. It feels like that because the chemicals are destroying the oils and tissue of my skin - I remember that from AP chemistry.
Morbidly, I like that image.
In the evenings, I prepare Edward's dinner. He likes to eat by six-thirty and he doesn't like leftovers, so I cook every day. He also likes for me to sit down beside him after I've served him so that he can tell me about his day. I've learned that he works for a large hedge fund and he manages a lot of other people's money. That's why he's always on the phone and why he's stressed out. I listen and nod my head because that's what he wants me to do. He never tells me anything important like if I ever get to leave or how or why he thinks that what he's doing to me is okay.
It's like he wants to play some fucked up version of 'house'.
Honestly, though, I think on some level he feels guilty for what he did to me back last July. He injured me so badly that he had to call a doctor - though I suspect not a legal one - to repair the damage to my anus. I wish that he'd have just had the doctor put me to sleep.
When I woke up the next day, there were flowers in my room. Big bouquets of wildflowers. They made me think of a place I used to visit back home. It was this meadow in the middle of the woods behind my house that my friend Jake and I found when we were twelve. If I could have gotten up on my own, I'd have thrown the vases to the ground. Instead, I lay on my side and wept silently for home and for my mom.
But since then, Edward has been gentler with me and he's only hit me a handful of times. At least he hasn't touched me there again.
He's also been buying me things again. Because the first one was ruined by his assault, he bought a new mattress for my bed. I have no idea what he did with the old one, but the new one is softer, and now, soft, blue cotton sheets cover it instead of hospital white. There is a bookshelf in my room, too, where he places new books every week. He says that they are mine to have, which I find ironic. But he's also letting me wear whatever clothes I want all of the time. I don't go shopping, of course, but he has me pick out things I want online on his laptop. Sweat pants are… nice.
Sometimes Edward has me sit with him on the leather couch in the living room for a movie. Every now and then, he asks me questions about what music I like or what my favorite books are. Why he even pretends like he cares, I can't fathom. It's not like I'm some date he's brought home. I don't say that, though. Instead, I always answer with one of the titles he put on my shelf.
Honestly, though, I despise Wuthering Heights.
Afterward, when Edward is done with his questions and begins to playfully tug at the hem of my shirt, I don't fight him when he wants to have sex with me. It's less painful that way, physically, but mostly emotionally, because I've learned how to shut my brain down.
But I hate it so much when he makes me sleep with him in his bed. The sheets smell like him, and usually around two or three in the morning, he wakes me up with his hand on my breast or between my legs. He says that he enjoys the convenience of having me there. When he pushes himself inside me from behind, he laughs and grunts how amazing I feel. When I say it back, his hips jerk and he finishes faster.
Really, he doesn't feel amazing at all, even though my body sometimes produces lubrication.
Since September 13, 2008, I have only felt three things: hatred, misery, and fear.
[May 1, 2010]
Edward is taking me for a walk this morning. It's a reward. He says that I've been a good girl and that I deserve a treat. I didn't flinch when one of his friends fondled me last night when I served them beer. At least he doesn't let them do anything else anymore. When he's inside of me now, he tells me I'm his and he moans my name like we are lovers. Every single time, I swallow back bile.
So, my treat.
A walk in the park.
His words make me feel like a dog, although they are hardly the worst thing he's said to me.
My sweatpants have to go, however. Edward says I need to look presentable if he's going to take me outside. He lays out a pair of jeans that are a size too small and a top that clings too tightly. When I look in the mirror, some remnant of my past self the one who was going to Stanford swells and I mutely call myself a whore.
But really, if anything, I look sick. Growing up, I was always thin, but now I can count my ribs and my collarbones look like they belong to a skeleton. What I eat, how much I eat, at least when he's not in the apartment, I can control. It's my own personal rebellion. Beyond that, my hair is lank and flat, and there are faint shadows of bruises under both of my eyes. Only one of those is from his fist.
The moment we step outside, I'm overwhelmed and unthinkingly, I grip the arm of his that's holding on to me. The sounds of the city, so loud after a year and a half indoors, scare me senseless. The sun is so bright that I have to squint, and the wind, coming off the Lake, he said, is still frigid. It makes me shiver, and the contrast with the warmth of the sun's rays on my back makes me want to cry. When he asks, I blame the sun for the moisture that leaks from my eyes.
In the park, everywhere I look, people are talking. They are laughing and riding bicycles. There are children playing on the monkey bars. Their giggling squeals are like a direct line to my heart because I remember that. I remember playing outside. I remember laughing. I remember what that was like.
A welling of emotion in my chest nearly suffocates my lungs. I can't breathe and suddenly, all I can think is:
Run! Scream! Do something!
"What are you thinking?" he asks, wrenching me from my innermost thoughts.
Inside, I panic because I fear that Edward can read my mind. Sometimes, I really think that he can. He's always, always one step ahead of me.
I offer what smile I can muster. It's sad and pitiful, I know, but it's all I know how to do now. "Just… so many people," I whisper.
His lips purse in thought, his head tilts, and he eyes me strangely. But then, his irises darken, and the muscles in his arm flex, pulling mine tight against his side. My heart sputters against my ribcage. That look reminds me so much of the afternoon I broke his rule.
"I won't," I plead softly. I force myself to kiss his cheek over and over, trying to soothe him and make him believe me. "I swear it. I wasn't thinking anything like that."
Edward smiles at me like I'm a child and pats the side of my face. Not letting go, he holds onto my chin to make me look at him. His fingers dig just a touch too strongly to be affectionate and his eyes are churning, deciding.
"Please, sir," I whisper again.
When I close my eyes, anticipating the worst, he laughs and wraps his arm around my shoulder. "I know you won't," he says, nuzzling my neck. To anyone watching, we probably look like two people together and in love.
Lower, just loud enough for me to hear, he adds, "Don't disappoint me, Isabella. I don't want to punish you. It hurts me just as much as it hurts you."
Somewhere inside my brain, I'm laughing maniacally.
But outside, I dip my head and murmur, "No, sir, I swear it. I don't want to go anywhere else."
My answer and demeanor satisfy him and he leans in to kiss me as if he hadn't just threatened me. Like everything else, he invades my body, taking what I never want to give. His tongue is demanding, forcing mine to submit. When I breathe in, I smell the stench of stale coffee, and I have to suppress a sickened shiver when his hands creep under my shirt to palm my bare skin. Hidden by our position and his coat, he slides his fingers underneath my bra to pinch and pull my nipples. It's too hard, but that's his intent. To hurt. He's proving something to me - that he owns me, even here in this park full of people.
I hate him more than I've ever hated anyone or anything.
But the lie that I have spoken is worse than anything else. It makes me feel vile and wretched. I'm ashamed because I realize that at this moment, I'm truly broken, defeated, and resigned that this is my fate. I am nothing more than property, something that can be used, abused, and handed off. I'm no longer a person.
Even if he let me run, I have no idea where I would go, what I would do, who would help me. By now, anyone who looked for me would have stopped. But it doesn't matter. Like he always reminds me, I don't doubt that Edward can find me at any time. God only knows what he would do if I tried to run.
[December 9, 2010]
"You stupid, fucking whore!" he rants. There's a loud crash, and wood splinters somewhere. He's broken some piece of furniture. Probably my book shelves.
He's already given me my beating. This time, my arm is broken. I'm certain of it because I can't feel my fingers. I probably have a few broken ribs, too, from where he kicked me when I finally collapsed. But it's amazing how much pain I can tolerate now. Two years ago, I'd have passed out from this.
Gone is any semblance of 'nice Edward', the man who likes to pretend that he is romancing me, the bastard who likes to pretend that he is more than the hateful, disgusting animal he is. My months free from violence have now been returned tenfold.
His face is red and he's screaming, yelling in my face, and jerking me up. "I give you one thing. One fucking thing. I let you have just a little bit of freedom and look what you do. You dumb cunt. How hard is it? Three fucking rules! Say them!"
My head rattles from the blow to my temple, but I don't even cringe. Inside and outside, I'm numb.
By rote, I rasp, "Do not speak to anyone unless you tell me to. Do not answer the door or pick up the phone."
"What else?" he screams.
"Don't try to esca-"
My back slams into the wall with a jarring force that stops my words, and his fingers squeeze my neck until my vision blurs. Trying to hold onto consciousness, I stare at the vein that stands out against the flat span of his forehead.
Maybe he'll kill me like this - with his bare hands. It would be better than this… this life.
"Escape. Don't try to escape," he snarls. There's a sharp punch to my gut. "A simple rule that you just had to break. You just had to try, didn't you? You had to make me use that goddamned chip and call that lowlife James.
"Where the fuck did you think you would go? Who do you think would help you? You're nothing but a worthless body to fuck. You're nothing."
There's another punch to my stomach, one that's hard enough that I feel my insides do strange things. He spits in my face and screams, "Shut up! Don't speak. You aren't allowed to speak anymore."
He grabs me between my legs. "Maybe I should just fuck your ass until you bleed like I did last summer. Maybe you'll learn this time."
My whole body is shaking with remembered pain and sheer terror. My breathing is nothing more than pants, and uncontrollable tears flow down my cheeks. I bite my tongue so that I won't speak, so that I won't beg.
But for whatever reason, he doesn't. Instead, he throws me on the bed and uses my mouth and throat until my tongue is swollen and my lips are cracked. I cry the entire time from the sharp, knife like pain that's radiating through my broken arm and shoulder. He's pinning it down with his knee, and every time his hips jerk, blackness flashes across my vision.
This. This is my punishment, because after more than two years of being held captive, after two years of having every part of me stolen and destroyed, I tried to escape.
I finally tried because a small, dark-haired girl named Alice offered to help me. She doesn't know me. She doesn't even know that I'm a slave. She just thinks that I'm an abused girlfriend or wife. But still, she wants to help me.
Last August, Edward let me go to the mailboxes alone again. She found me there. She didn't speak, but she started passing me notes. In October, I started passing some back.
She told me that I was worth something. That she would help me. That I didn't have to live like this.
For just a little while, I believed that, too, and I ran.
[March 30, 2011]
It's one o'clock in the morning.
Silently, gingerly, I ease myself out of the bed. I go so slowly, making sure that he can't feel the movement of the mattress when I lift my weight.
I'm desperate not to wake him because this might be my only chance.
This is only the fifth night since December that he's allowed me back into his bed. After a gray haired man came in and set my arm - it was fractured in three places - I was confined to my room for a month. My books were taken, too, so for thirty days, all I did was sit on my bed and stare out of the window. Sometimes Edward came in to talk to me before he went to sleep. Twice, I woke up in the early morning hours to find him sitting on the edge of my bed, staring at me while I slept. I wasn't dumb enough to ask why. Nothing surprises me anymore, and I've given up trying to understand what makes men like Edward tick. I don't know how he can look at himself in the mirror.
The second month I was allowed back in the kitchen and dining room so that I could cook for him. Cooking with a cast on was difficult, but I managed. Serving him was even more difficult. He laughed when I spilled food. Really, it was just an excuse for him to bend me over his table. Each time I heard the rustle of clothes and felt him rubbing himself against my backside, I closed my eyes and let my body go slack.
It wasn't until the start of third month, that he gave back most of my privileges. I think that he was just lonely. He wanted to play his version of 'house' again.
In some ways, these past few weeks are the same as those after he assaulted me that July. I spend my days cooking and cleaning. I wander around the apartment. I'm numb and empty. I do nothing but live inside my head. I don't watch television. I don't read at all. That desire has been killed completely.
Where it's the same as before, it's different now, too. I made my run. I tried to escape. And Edward found me in less than three hours. If I were to run again, he would just find me and bring me back here. And in his rage, he would rape me and beat me within an inch of my life. Deep down, I know that that it would happen again and again and again. Until he killed me. Or until he sold me to someone just like him.
If Edward were gone, then James would come after me. Edward has already made those arrangements.
As much as I want to believe the things that Alice told me, in reality, that glimmer of hope is gone and spent. I know that I will never be free. I will always be this - this phantom of a person. Where I thought that I was broken and hopeless before, now I know that I will never escape this life. It's devastating, and every time my thoughts drift there, my chest aches and silent tears streak down my cheeks.
"Not now. Not yet," I whisper to myself, forcing myself to focus. Because there is something new at least, a new trickle of a thought that floats around in my head when I close my eyes.
I realize that there is one thing in my life that I can control, one thing that I can decide, and it's strange how that thought gives me some measure of strength. But it does. It gives me a dark sense of purpose.
I just need him to stay asleep long enough.
Two weeks ago, I passed by his study on the way to the laundry room. Edward was there, like always, talking on his cell phone about options and floor prices. He was so consumed that he didn't see me. But I saw him. The bottom left drawer of his desk was open, and in his hand, there was a flash of a silver barrel and the shine of a burled wood handle.
I recognized it immediately. Because my father owned one just like it.
I was only mildly surprised that after all of this time, I had no idea that it was even there.
But now I know and now I want it.
Like everything else that he doesn't trust me with - knives and scissors and anything else that sharp - the door to Edward's study is locked when he isn't home. Nighttime, after he's asleep, is my only chance. He's careless at night, especially when I grit my teeth and proposition him.
Unlike the door, the desk is always locked, and I have no idea where he keeps the key. The first night I tried this, the night before last, I searched for it everywhere. Careful to not make a sound, in utter darkness, I dipped my fingers in teacups and skimmed my hands under vases and on the tops of shelves.
Tonight, always listening, I try my hand at patience and paperclips.
Every time the floors creak or groan, I wince and freeze, because if he catches me, I may never walk again.
"Please, God," I chant. I know what I'm praying for is wrong - a sin, if I really believe it - but I rationalize. Surely, surely God understands why I need this. He abandoned me for two and a half years. I deserve something, so I beg for this one thing, this one chance to free myself the only way I can.
An hour later, a metallic click echoes in the room.
Trembling and breathless, I reach into the desk and meet cold steel. The last time I touched an object like this was when I was seventeen and standing between my father and one of his deputies at the shooting range. For the first time in at least a year, I can hear him like it was yesterday. His voice, all gruff and low, it's like a blanket wrapping around my shoulders.
Widen your stance and straighten those shoulders, baby girl.
Go ahead, grip the handle. Grip it like you aren't afraid of it and put your finger over the trigger.
See that target? Just aim the barrel that way. Line it up.
No, don't cock the hammer. You don't practice like that. That's for the movies. Practice like it matters.
It'll just take a little more force to get it to fire. But you'll know how if you ever have to.
Don't you ever hesitate.
For a long moment, surrounded by darkness and quiet, I drown in my memories, playing back all of the images and instances that I've stored up. Without reservation, I allow myself to really think of them.
My mom's face is so bright. Her hair is short like it was when I was twelve. I think about the way she used to plait my hair and tie-dye old t-shirts in the back yard. On Saturdays, we used to bake together, even when I was little. She always let me lick the spoons. Sometimes we just ate the batter because we could.
I think of my dad and how he used to tell me he loved me when he thought that I was asleep. I remember the way he threatened Mike Newton on prom night when he picked me up in his dad's BMW. I think about how he will be disappointed that I'm giving up. I pray that he will forgive me, that he can understand.
I think about Jake and Angela and Jessica. I wonder where they are now and if their lives are happy ones. I hope so.
Shuddering, I curse under my breath. He's slurring so he's still half asleep, but I know that there is no more time. The second Edward realizes that I'm not there beside him, he will come running.
My eyes slide shut, hanging onto the pictures in my mind. There is this pressure that's expanding inside of me, sinking my stomach in dread. It makes me grip the gun tighter and it makes me swallow hard.
"Isabella!" Edward yells. He's wide-awake now. I hear light switches clicking on, and there's the slap of bare feet against wood flooring.
I try not to think about him. I hold my breath.
"What the fuck are you doing?" he screams from the doorway.
As if in slow motion, I open my eyes. Edward is there, disheveled and in nothing but blue striped boxer shorts. Illuminated by the lights from the hallway, his hair looks like a copper halo. His eyes are wide and frantic, and he's yelling words at me that sound like they are being shouted underwater.
My fingers twitch and I raise the barrel. For a second, I consider abandoning my plan and firing at him. White-hot hatred burns my insides. I want him dead. I want him to suffer. I want him to feel everything he's ever done to me.
"Put the gun down, Isabella," he commands, breaking through the haze. He's glaring at me with fury and promised violence. He's going to hurt me like never before. I know it. "You know what will happen to you if you shoot me."
Reality crashes around me that knowledge that killing him won't save me. I know it already, but hearing it again sounds like shattering glass in my ears.
Maybe I'm irrational. Maybe I could try, I argue. I could shoot him and I could run again. I could ask Alice to help me.
Through a curtain of tears, I see that Edward's hands are balled into tight fists and that he's slowly edging toward me. Even as I'm holding this pistol, fear lances through my veins.
So much has been taken from me. So much has been stolen and broken.
I'm just so tired. So goddamned tired.
And my body hurts so much. But my soul hurts even more.
I want just one thing. I want control over one thing in my life.
Icy steel touches my temple, and I inhale a deep breath.
My voice, small and hoarse, carries in the room.
It's difficult to estimate the total number of modern-day slaves. A 2007 report by the ILO puts the numbers up as high as 27 million worldwide. Slaves exist in every single country. The majority of these are women and children, most of whom are trafficked as sex slaves or forced prostitutes. If you'd like more information, here's a good place to get started: www . humantrafficking . org.
Most of the scenes, as well as the psychological damage, depicted above were influenced by and taken from actual survivor stories. This includes the final scene.
One can argue that the survivors who have given their stories were the lucky ones because they escaped and they are alive. Certainly, they are, but even still, years - decades - later, their suffering continues. The human psyche can tolerate only so much; for these people - these victims - the mental and emotional trauma inflicted will never go away completely, no matter how much therapy and help is given.
Slavery - to own another human being as property - is the ultimate violation of basic human rights. It is the loss of choice, of freedom, and of a future. In many cases, it's obscenely violent and involves abuse of the worst kind, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Sexual slavery has nothing to do with romance, and there is no such thing as a HEA. It is nothing but abuse, human debasement, and rape, even if the oppressor is attractive and named Edward.