Jessica wanted to say she's not sure when it started- but that would be a lie, and she knew it.

She knew exactly when it started.

Jessica wasn't Bella's friend for nothing; and even though Bella seemed to regard Jessica with little more than disinterest (as though she were looking at a cauliflower, or a common garden vegetable- because Bella Swan was far too enraptured with the beautiful Cullens to pay little old Jessica and little old Mike and little old everyone else much attention), Jessica still cared about Bella.

Jessica- no matter what thoughtless words sometimes slipped from her mouth, and no matter what cruel comments she sometimes made- did care.

Perhaps a little too much.

More than she should have done.

And more than Bella would let her.

Because when the Cullens left- when they disappeared without a trace, like mist in the early morning, leaving their usual table in the corner of the cafeteria empty (nobody used that table anymore; not because there were any doubts if the Cullens would return, but because going over there would disturb the memories somehow, like sweeping your fingers through dust)- Bella Swan soon became more antisocial.

Colder.

Even paler.

Bella had always been pale- but, following the Cullen's absence (especially Edward; because, for Bella, it had always been about Edward; not Jessica or Mike or any of her friends), her skin looked stark white.

Ashen.

Almost ugly.

Purple grooves from a lack of sleep etched themselves under Bella's eyes, and sometimes Bella would shiver even though it wasn't at all cold- and other times she'd press her fingertips against her chest, as though checking to see whether her heart was still beating.

As though she were contemplating pulling her heart out altogether.

And ending her shambling, zombie-like existence- which was more a mockery of 'real life' than it was honestly living.

Jessica wasn't as blind as Bella thought she was- and she wasn't stupid- and she was Bella's friend; even if Bella didn't want her to be.

Even if Bella pushed her away.

No matter how many times Bella forced a smile (a botched smile; all crooked and broken as though it had been stamped on), shook her head, and said "I'm fine, Jess", Jessica wasn't so sure.

Jessica knew it was a lie.

But, as the time passed- as October became November became December became January- the table the Cullen's had once occupied remained empty, and Bella continued to press her fingertips against her chest with that pained look on her face-

And yet, no matter how many times Jessica said "are you okay?" Bella would force a smile and tell a lie.

"It's okay, Jess."

But it wasn't.

Of course it wasn't.

No matter how much Jessica cared- no matter how hard she tried (and she did try; she tried at everything she did- apart from maybe science; but human relationships were far more important) to be a good friend, even if Bella wasn't making her job particularly easy- Bella Swan would throw Jessica's concern back in her face.

After a while, those fake smiles and those "I'm alright"s began to feel like slaps across the face.

Jessica… wanted to be a good friend.

And she wanted to care.

She did care.

But watching Bella ruin her own life- becoming more introverted, a complete wreck, not eating and not talking and not doing anything until it was a miracle she managed to shuffle from class to class at all without collapsing- hurt too much.

Watching Bella steadfastly walk down the path of self destruction- tick tick tick like a time bomb (and the explosion wouldn't be pretty; who would catch the shrapnel when the mist cleared and piece Bella back together again when Bella had been pushing away all others who might have helped?)- was simply too painful.

Jessica didn't want to watch Bella destroy herself.

It hurt too much.

So, instead…

It was easier to turn her head and pretend it wasn't happening.

Jessica couldn't help a broken girl who didn't want to help herself.

And now it was too painful to even try.

Bella was hell-bent on destroying herself over some guy (a hot guy, sure; but he was still just one person. Jessica loved Mike- the dork though he was- and even though he didn't return her feelings Jessica hadn't broken down, had she?), then Jessica wasn't going to keep asking "are you alright?"- only to be fed lies.

It was the lies that hurt the most.

The obvious lies.

Jessica wasn't going to let herself be dragged down by Bella anymore.

Jessica was going to stop caring.

Because if she didn't stop caring, it would kill her.


Jessica knew exactly when it started. And, maybe, if she'd been a beautiful Cullen with perfectly styled hair and pale skin, she could have helped- because the Cullens were the only people Bella would listen to.

But Jessica wasn't a Cullen.

She was just… herself.

An ordinary girl.

And, for Isabella Swan, that just wasn't good enough.

Jessica couldn't stop the timer; she couldn't halt the process.

She could only watch.

Watch, as Bella's pain ate her heart away from the inside-

And her life slowly seeped down the drain.