Dedicated to Kat & Kynds for always being a soft bosom (and what two great sets of bosoms they are) to weep on. And to TGBeibs for writing me the most awesome Mortal Instruments story a girl could ask for xo

One Split Second, Forever.

ooo-E-ooo

I had just turned nineteen. I had two weeks of freedom left before joining the Army. It had taken me a year to determine what I wanted to do with my life, and in that time, I had worked at the local gym. It had allowed me free gym sessions in which to build myself up for my eventual chosen profession.

I was joining the army in the hope that I would one day be on the front line. I wanted to defend my country. Truth be told, I was young, and I thought that being on the front line would not only make me a hero, but would also allow me to play with guns. Real guns. And just like any son, I wanted to make my parents proud of me.

I had made plans to meet with friends and hang out for the afternoon. We always went to Jasper's house because his parents were rarely home, and we'd get his brother to buy us alcohol. We thought we were so cool.

I had spent about four hours at Jasper's and then decided to head home at six. I had consumed at least five beers. Definitely not enough to make me inebriated; well… so I'd thought.

I was approaching a set of lights when my phone beeped with a text. I looked up to see the lights were green at the same moment I grabbed for my phone. I glanced down at my phone for a few seconds when I suddenly heard a loud horn. I looked up in time to see a woman's eyes look directly into mine. The emotion that I saw glistening in those eyes would never leave me again, and trust me; I have tried. They held so much fear, hope and judgment that my stomach twisted in knots.

I became aware of what was happening when the loud crunch of metal on metal echoed in my ears. I saw the fearful eyes of the woman as they sped towards me. I heard the shatter of my windscreen, and saw the crimson lines that formed on her face. They were the last thing I saw, before an intense pain overwhelmed me and everything went black.

ooo-B-ooo

The darkness was my savior. It scared me at first, but then I saw the light.

The light came at the same time as the rapid voices, and with each bright flash; a piece of my memory would return to haunt me.

The metal, glass, and screaming were so vivid that I felt paralyzed with fear.

The darkness was quiet. I escaped into it, seeking it out whenever the light would try to make its way in.

Dark. Warm. Safe.

I wasn't ready for the light.

ooo-E-ooo

Her face haunted me. Everywhere I looked, there she was. She was accusing me, begging me, pleading for me not to take her. She wasn't ready to die. The fear, anger and pure ache within her would never leave me. It would eat at me as I lay on that hospital bed until my stomach was a ball of knots.

They tightened and twisted.

My insides became so filled with regret that I sat bolt upright and purged all over my shattered leg.

It was my awakening.

Six days in a coma.

ooo-B-ooo

I could feel the light becoming incessant in its mission to find me.

I burrowed deeper, again and again.

I grew tired, and it found me.

I screamed out in agony. My heart ached. I needed it to stop. I begged for it to stop.

Everything fell into blackness, and I sighed internally with relief.

I slept.

ooo-E-ooo

I had been awake for two, long and excruciating days.

Sleep came and went, but her face was always there, reminding me of my wrong doings; eating away at my insides.

I was injured, but my seat belt had saved my life. It's a shame nothing could have saved her.

I found her, unintentionally.

It was front page news. The headline screamed a fate worse than I could ever have imagined in my worst nightmares.

'Fifteen year old orphaned. Girl fights for her life. Hit by a drunk driver'.

Each paragraph scraped the inside of my heart until I became hollow. Still, I made a mess on the linoleum floor.

ooo-B-ooo

Sleep.

ooo-E-ooo

I wanted to see her, but they wouldn't let me.

There were so many people. Police, lawyers, nurses, doctors and then there was the counselor. Some counselor; he couldn't help when I saw both relief and disappointment on the faces of my parents. It hurt to see them look at me in that way.

He did help me learn her name.

Isabella Swan.

Fifteen.

I had killed her parents. Me. In a split second, I had changed her life forever.

Three weeks after the accident, I didn't just leave the hospital in a wheelchair I also left in handcuffs.

ooo-B-ooo

The light was bright, but instead of feeling the pain as I did before, I felt ready for whatever came my way. That was until they told me about my parents.

I was given something to help me sleep and for the first time in a long time, I cursed the blackness that followed.

ooo-E-ooo

I was facing charges of reckless driving causing death; drink driving, and underage drinking. I pled guilty. I was guilty. In every sense of the word. I had to pay for my mistakes.

And pay, I did.

Eight years in prison.

Personally, I felt it wasn't enough, and I wanted to demand the chair. Instead, I tried everything possible to get myself killed.

I almost succeeded. I was beaten by the biggest, baddest and ugliest guy in the joint after I made a joke about his mother. It placed me in the prison infirmary for almost a week.

I was moved.

I had tried a few more attempts before my counselor finally snapped. He was bigger than any of the inmates I had ever shared a cell with, and he was more than willing to prove it. I grimaced as my bruised back hit the cold brick wall and his hands gripped my biceps.

"You're a fucking idiot. Do you know that?"

Of course I knew, so I just stayed quiet. He understood my thoughts and cursed as he released me.

"Sit down," he said sharply.

I slunk over to the hard plastic chair and dropped myself into it.

"It's been two years, Edward. Are you just going to continue to try to kill yourself, or are you actually going to try to make something of your life? Prove to those people out there that you're not the cold-hearted killer, they all think you are?"

I looked up at him. "I am," I mumbled.

I jumped as his fist hit the table between us.

"YOU'RE NOT!" His outburst echoed around the bare walls of the small interview room.

I heard him sigh heavily as he sat in the chair opposite me.

"Have you ever thought of contacting her?"

At this question, my eyes shot up to his.

"Isn't that against the law or some shit?"

"No, they just don't recommend it; however, I'm beginning to think that it's the only thing that might get you past this… bullshit," he added with a 'whatever' flick of his hand.

"Do you think she'd read it?"

"Who knows?"

"Do you think she'd write back?" I asked as excitement rippled through me.

"Fuck, Edward, I don't know…"

I looked up at him to see him rake his hand through his curly hair. Something I hadn't been able to do, since I'd had it shaved when I first arrived in prison.

He looked at me apologetically then smiled. "Sorry, you're just really fucking testing my patience."

I chuckled at his admission.

"It's all right, Emmett. I don't blame you. I'm a pain in the ass. I know it."

"You've just lost your way. That's all."

For some reason, his words, along with the promise of being able to contact her, made me feel light and almost happy. Hopeful.

"Emmett?"

"Yeah?"

"I want to do it. I want to write to her," I said with determination.

"Okay. I'll set it up with the guards, and we'll get you some stationery tonight."

"Thanks."

"No problem."

ooo-B-ooo

The letter was addressed to me in a delicate script, and my first thought was that the writer had perhaps had calligraphy lessons. Then I noticed the return address, and I realized that I was possibly holding valuable information on my parents' killer. I only hoped that it wasn't a letter to inform me that he'd been let out for good behavior. I knew that it was possible he'd be let out early, but not after only two years. I ripped into the letter and read the tidy scrawl on the lined paper. Each additional word made my world spin, again and again.

Dear Isabella Swan,

I have dreamt of doing this for so long, and I've thought about what I would say to you if I ever had the chance. And now that the moment is here, I can only think of one thing to say, and that is, I am truly sorry for what I have done.

I can't imagine what your life must be like now. I destroyed it. I changed it all with my stupidity, and it's something that I will never, ever forgive myself for.

I wouldn't expect for you to forgive me either, but I hope that someday, you'll find it in your heart to understand that every single day, I regret what I have done to you.

I pray that you are well, and I do hope that you'll write me back, although, I'll understand if you don't.

Sincerely,

Edward Masen.

I dropped the letter and ran to my room.

I sobbed until I fell asleep.

Every couple of weeks there was a new letter. Five letters arrived over the course of the following six months. I returned every one of them unopened. After the fifth letter, I decided to return it, personally.

I was a nervous ball of energy when I arrived in front of the large building. Its razor-wire boundary atop the mountainous brick walls was more intimidating than the thought of coming face-to-face with the man who killed my parents.

I sat in the black chair and waited for him, just as the guard had told me to. When the man walked in, I wasn't quite prepared for what I saw. The news reports had shown a tall, well-built man with bronze, wild hair and somber, green eyes. What walked through the doorway was a slim, sickly looking man. His eyes were sunken with dark circles. His hair had been shaved off, and his green eyes were almost black beneath the circles that surrounded them.

He stood and stared at me in disbelief for a few seconds, before obeying the guard and seating himself on the other side of a see-through partition that separated us. We both picked up the phone on our respective sides at the same time.

"Isabella?" His deep voice was scratchy but filled with hope.

I nodded.

"Oh God… I never thought… I never…," his words tapered off, and I took that as my cue.

I pulled out the last letter and showed it to him. His eyes lit up, and he smiled at me.

"You got my letters!"

"You need to stop sending me these," I said, cutting him off.

His face straightened out in shock.

"I don't need to read about how sorry you are, Edward," I spat.

I ripped the envelope in two and then into four. His forehead began to crumple, and I was sure I saw his eyes grow dark again.

Tears began to rise, and I rushed on to finish what I had gone there to do.

"You destroyed my life. You tore it into tiny pieces," I seethed, as I tore up the letter over and over. "I have nothing left but the scars you left me with." I pointed at the ugly pink line down the left side of my face.

I saw him look at it with a mixture of curiosity and regret.

"I will never forgive you, for as long as I live. That, Mr. Masen, is a promise." I slammed the phone down and shot up out of my seat. I ran for the exit before he could see my tears spill.

ooo-E-ooo

Emmett had a hard time setting me back on the straight and narrow again after my setback with Isabella. He eventually made me see some good in myself, such as my ability to tell a compelling story.

As endless hours turned into endless days, and endless days turn into endless months, I spent my time writing. Day in and day out, I wrote until my hand would cramp, at which point I would exercise in any way possible to release the pent up energy.

Before long, my body was almost back to what it had been before. I also had hundreds of pages of writing. I wrote anything that came to mind; most of it was about Isabella Swan.

I also prayed during my spare time. I didn't consider myself a religious man, but I had to do something for Isabella. So I prayed for her. I prayed that happiness would find her. I also prayed that one day, despite her promise, that she would forgive me.

The months became years, and without even realizing it, six years had passed me by.

With Emmett's help, I was released early.

When the day finally came, and my parents picked me up, a peculiar emotion overtook me. Fear. I hadn't felt fear in such a long time, that I almost didn't recognize it. I had only felt pain, grief and fleeting moments of enjoyment while inside. I never feared anything. Life in prison, or death, was almost welcomed. Suddenly, I didn't have those four walls to protect me, what to do?

I mostly spent the first few months of freedom in my bedroom, which hadn't changed since before I went to prison. Mom and Dad tried to coerce me into going to a family get together, but up until that point, I had even refused to go to the local grocery store. My insecurities came back tenfold, and I wrapped myself up from within.

After I had been home for two months, Emmett visited, and he actually offered me a beer. When I refused, he reminded me that my past mistakes didn't define me; that they were merely a learning post.

I didn't like the beer very much, but I did enjoy the conversation, and I found I was saying 'yes' to a dinner at his house with his wife and kids.

It was my first real step forward since I'd left prison.

ooo-B-ooo

I tried to avoid thinking of Edward so much as the years went on. Occasionally, I'd think of him; usually when I thought of my parents, but as the years went on, my thoughts of him petered away. The memories of my parents were no longer of their deaths. Eventually, the memories of their living moments would be all I could remember. I'd like to think, that as time went on, I became less bitter.

It was this notion that made me seek news about Edward, only to find that he had been released. Surprisingly, I felt no emotion upon hearing this.

I spent years studying hard to get my teaching degree. When I got my first 'real job' at twenty three, I was so excited. For me, I felt as though life was starting all over again. Sadly, the kids were much more considerate about my scars than some of the teachers, so I left to start at another school a year later.

I ended up at a high school, and surprisingly, I found it easy to talk to the older children about my scars and how I got them. Some of them were so astonished that something so shocking had happened to someone they knew, and I began to think that the drink-driving danger was something that needed to be addressed to my students.

I put it to the teachers at a meeting and was thrilled when they agreed. Weeks later, I was then informed that we would have a guest who would speak on the issue to the students.

The day arrived, and an hour before the home bell rang, the principal walked in with our guest speaker. I froze. It was him.

ooo-E-ooo

It wasn't the pink line down her face that gave her away, nor was it her shocked expression. It was her brown eyes, which were the exact color of her mother's that made me realize whose classroom I was in.

She recovered quicker than I did and ushered us to the front of the room. She moved to the back of the room as fast as she possibly could as I stood by her desk as ordered.

As the principal introduced me, I looked around at their expectant faces and tried hard to prevent my eyes from drifting to the very back of the room. Once the principal left, I began to tell my story, just as I had done so many times over the last twenty-two months.

"I regret what I did, and it's something that will never leave me. I will forever be sorry." I chanced a look to the back of the room to see Isabella staring at me with glistening eyes.

Isabella held my glance momentarily before storming from the room and leaving the door to close behind her.

I was about to follow her when a boy called out.

"What kind of car were you driving? Was it really expensive? 'Cause that would be a waste." He snorted and looked around the room as if for approval. A few other boys snickered into their hands, but they stopped when they saw me approach the boy's desk.

"How old are you?" I demanded.

"Seventeen," he replied offhandedly, trying to put on a brave show for his friends.

I placed a hand on his desk and leaned toward him. I wanted to intimidate him. I wanted to scare the stupidity out of him.

"What's your name?"

"Mike."

"Mike, imagine this. You're in the car with your mom and dad. It's just another day in your shitty teenage existence, until, out of nowhere you see a car coming, and it's coming fast. Before you can even imagine what is about to happen, you hear the scraping of metal." With one hand, I quickly pushed his desk forward until it hit his stomach, scraping the metal legs along the linoleum.

"And then your whole body is jolted as your head hits the seat in front of you." I grabbed him by the back of his head and pushed it down firmly until it was on the table. I turned his head and faced it sideways, so he could see his friends reactions to what was happening to him. "Then you look through the window only to see your mother land on the windscreen of that car, as it's crushing her skull, killing her instantly. Take a good look at that car, Mike. Do you really care how expensive the car is? Well, do you?"

I pushed his head into the table harder until his cheek was mashed up against the cool metal.

"No. Now I don't," he mumbled, defeated.

I let him go, and I walked back to the front of the classroom in two long strides. I turned to look around the room of shocked students and smiled politely.

"Any more questions?"

Silence.

I was about to say something else when the bell rang.

To this very day, I have never seen a class clear out so quickly.

I looked around the empty room with a heavy heart. I glanced over to Isabella's desk and decided to do what I do best; I wrote her a note.

ooo-B-ooo

I escaped to the empty classroom next to mine. Hearing the story from Edward's view point and hearing what he had been through over the last ten years, gave me a lot to think about. I realized I was sympathizing with him, and I couldn't quite wrap my head around the ridiculousness of the notion that I would feel sorry for the man that had killed my parents. Besides, I had lost everything, and he had lost nothing, surely?

His story was nothing but loss. He'd lost his career potential. He had wanted to put himself on the front line. He'd wanted to defend his country. He'd lost pride, the ability to love, both others and himself. He'd lost everything he ever was, everything he ever could have been.

Once I saw the students leaving the school site from the large, frosty window, I waited for about ten minutes before going back to my classroom. Somehow, I wasn't surprised to see him there.

He stopped still as I entered the doorway.

"I'm sorry. I was just leaving. I promise," he sputtered.

"It's okay," I replied softly.

I saw that he had my pen in his hand and his eyes followed my gaze. He made a motion to hand it back to me, and then seemed to catch himself. He placed it back on my desk instead.

"Sorry, I was just writing – ah…" He gestured toward a note on my desk. "Anyway, I'll leave now. Sorry. By the way, I didn't know it was your class and-".

"You say sorry a lot," I said, cutting him off.

"Well, I am. Sorry, that is." He seemed nervous; I was beginning to wonder why I didn't feel the same.

"I got that." I couldn't help the teasing smile that escaped me.

He nodded and then looked stiffly down at his feet. I walked around to my desk and picked up the note.

In his fancy script were the words, 'Forever sorry. Forever regretful. Forever, Edward'.

Tears sprang to my eyes, and I wiped at them quickly.

His back was turned to me, and he was still frozen in place looking down at his feet.

"How long have you been talking to children about… this?" I asked.

He spun around, a look of shock on his face, as if he'd forgotten where he was and just come to the realization of his surroundings.

"I – ah – almost two years now. I just figured that if I could save someone, it might… well it'd never make up for... of course, but – I – ah. I just wanted–".

"It's very commendable," I cut him off again.

"Thank you. That means a lot, especially coming from you. I should go." He seemed to collect himself and turned to leave.

"Edward?" I called before he could take a step.

He looked over his shoulder at me, curiously. I walked around my desk and leaned back on the edge of it.

"Is it true? Did you try to kill yourself in prison?"

His eyes widened and then he lowered them again. I felt a sudden urge to hold him; I wanted to hold the man who took my parents from me… imagine that. However, from where I was standing, despite being free from prison, it was obvious that Edward was a broken man.

I closed the gap between us and placed a hand on his back.

"Edward?"

His eyes were glistening when they met mine.

"I forgive you," I whispered.

He froze. A few tears slipped down his cheeks, but he stood as still as a statue, staring at me with unbelieving eyes.

I nodded and whispered the words to him again, only a little louder this time.

"I forgive you."

His reaction wasn't quite what I expected. He closed his eyes and began to sob. His shoulders shook as the tears fell freely from his eyes. On pure instinct, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him down to me. His arms wrapped under mine, and he gripped onto my shoulders as he cried into my neck. I didn't even feel my tears coming, but pretty soon they were flowing right beside his.

We stood like that until the tears finally ebbed. I moved to pull away from him, but he held me tighter.

"I'm sorry," he apologized before he dropped his arms.

"Enough sorry's already," I admonished.

We both wiped at our tears but didn't move away from each other. I didn't mind. It felt soothing to have him so close.

I became aware that he was watching me as I continued to wipe at my tears. When I looked up at him, I could tell his gaze was on my scar.

"May I?" he asked, motioning to it.

I wasn't sure what he was asking, but I nodded in response.

He tentatively cupped my face and lightly rubbed his thumb over it. He surprised me as he leaned in and gently brushed his lips over the scar, giving me the gentlest of kisses that I'd ever received. I felt every hair on my body stand on end as the flesh beneath it buzzed with life.

"Thank you, Isabella," he murmured and then kissed my forehead softly as his hand continued to cup my face, keeping my skin alight.

With that final kiss, he turned and walked out of the room, leaving me feeling … empty. Despite forgiving him, despite holding him and seeing that he was as broken as I was over what had happened to my parents, none of it made me feel any better.

I collected my belongings and went home for some Chinese food, hoping that it would fill the hole that had formed inside me.

ooo-E-ooo

Isabella was more of a beautiful person than I ever imagined her to be. Not only had she forgiven me, not only had she lived through and survived the loss of her parents, but she was beautiful on the outside, too. Scars and all. Being near her hurt my heart, but being away from her made it hollow. It was a feeling I couldn't quite process, so I threw myself into finishing my book.

This turned out to be a beneficial decision when a year later, it was published and had made it onto the New York best sellers list after only the first week of sales.

I imagine that some of the television interviews helped a fair bit; however, I was happy that I was getting the message out there. Getting behind the wheel is a big responsibility and should never be taken lightly.

The book took me around the world, but I always thought of Isabella. She was always with me, no matter where I went. On a whim, I decided to make her the permanent fixture she had already become over the past eleven years of my life. I got a tattoo of a swan over my heart with the word 'Forever' beneath it. It was a way for me to pay my respects to her parents, too.

It had been over a year, since I'd last seen Isabella, when one day she walked into a book signing carrying one of my books in her hand.

ooo-B-ooo

I had spent a whole year thinking about Edward. My feelings concerning him switched to and fro, and I began to grow angry in my heart. I felt lost, instead of happy and free. Wasn't freedom meant to come with forgiveness? Or maybe that's only for the forgiven?

In one moment, I was angry with him for not contacting me, the next I was angry with myself for expecting him to. The tender moment in my classroom didn't bind us to each other for life, and the collision shouldn't have to either, should it? I needed to move on, and this conclusion became clear to me the day before I saw him on the television, promoting his new book.

When I saw him in the book store a week later, signing books for people, I wasn't quite prepared for the way my heart began to race. I walked up to him as confidently as possible, and when he noticed me, his smile was wide, and his bright green eyes twinkled.

"Hello, stranger," I greeted him.

"Isabella! What are you doing here?"

"Getting the autograph of the most famous man in town, of course, so I can sell it and make a million," I replied.

I gave him the book, and he seemed surprised to see that I had a copy.

"What would you like me to write?" he asked, almost shyly.

"Whatever comes to mind."

He opened the book and scribbled out a note in his neat handwriting. I watched, mesmerized as his hand moved over the page, but I wasn't reading the words. It was no secret that he'd handwritten most of the book during his six years in prison. I imagined that skinny, bald-headed, black-eyed man scribbling on lined paper, and I compared him to the green-eyed, nicely built, happy man in front of me. They were chalk and cheese.

He had come far, and so had I. Despite our downfalls, our troubles, our demons and all the black moments of our lives, we'd managed to come out above it all. We'd learned our lessons. Edward had learned about the dangers of an unfortunate split-second decision, and I had learned that bad things aren't always done by bad people. And that it's okay to forgive; it's okay to open your heart to someone.

"Edward, I–".

"Next!" A short, scruffy man in a suit stood behind Edward and called around me. I turned to see a line had formed behind me.

Edward handed my book back to me and looked at me apologetically. "Bye, Isabella. Let me know when you've read it?"

I nodded. "Bye, Edward," I replied softly and sidled out from the front of the line. I opened my book as I made my way to the door.

Dear Isabella,

You're an amazing woman. A beautiful face, with a graceful soul. I hope you enjoy your book. Thank you for being the greatest inspiration a man could ever ask for.

Forever,

Edward.

I turned around to see Edward watching me as he signed a book for someone. I hadn't even thought about the book's title until that moment. I turned the book over and read the cover again.

A Beautiful Swan. A story about scars, forgiveness and true love.

I opened it to the first few pages until the dedication jumped out at me.

Dedicated to Charlie & Renee Swan.

May you live on forever in the hearts of those that love you.

Also, to Isabella, who, without her, this book wouldn't even exist.

You are forever etched into my heart.

I ran from the store before anyone could see the tears wet my cheeks.

I had just gotten home when it began to pour down with rain.

I sat down in the family room and thought about reading the book, but after reading the blurb on the back, I decided to take a long bath instead. I needed to digest the events of the day.

'When young Bella Duckling is disfigured from an accident, her only place of solace is in the darkness. Can she find a light in Anthony Cullen, or is forgiveness too much to ask for?'

I read the blurb over and over again while soaking in the bath, before I finally opened the book and read it, cover to cover. When I closed the book and wiped my tears, the water temperature finally hit me. It was near ice-cold. I put the book down and ran for the shower.

I decided to dress in my pajamas, ready for an early night. I figured I'd deal with the Edward situation in the morning. I was just turning the television off when I heard the doorbell ring.

I opened the door to find an exceptionally wet Edward. His hair was flat, the tips of it hung into his eyes, where large drops of rain seemed to gather and fall from his long lashes.

"So?" he asked expectantly.

"Really? Bella Duckling?"

We both laughed, and he appeared to be relieved for a moment before he straightened himself up again.

"The publishers thought it would be kind of ironic because of the title. You know... ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan…" he petered off and looked at me with a raised brow.

"Is it really about me?"

"Yes and no."

I gave him a puzzled look.

"Well it's more about my life story."

"So you're the ugly duckling?" I asked with a laugh.

"I guess... yeah... sorta." He chuckled nervously.

"So what does that make me?" I asked nervously.

"My light," he answered without a second thought.

I stared at him for a moment and then held my hand out to him. He took it gently, with a warm smile on his face, and I pulled him to me. As my arms wrapped around his torso, his arms moved to envelop me. He was soaked through, but I didn't care. I needed to be close to him, to show him that I appreciated him and that my heart was open.

He pulled out of the hug with one arm and instead placed a finger under my chin. I looked up at him with curiosity and then sighed as he leaned down, touching his cool lips to my scar. It was like silk, and if I could have wrapped myself up in it, I would have.

"I'm sorry for calling you Bella Duckling," he whispered into my skin.

I chuckled. "You're forgiven. Now come inside and get out of those dripping wet clothes."

AN: I wrote most of this while on cold and flu drugs so a huge thank you to my beta, Bower Of Bliss for making my nonsense make good sense. If you haven't read her amazing stories then I can promise you that you're missing out on some amazing writing.

Would love to know what you think of my cold and flu drug bunny LOL