Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.No copyright infringement is intended.

Everything is burning. The heat singes the sweat from my skin before it can pool. Grief lays heavy in my gut, feeling like a vice squeezing the life from my throat... Or maybe that is the smoke.

My mother's words are repeating on a loop in my mind, all jumbled with pain and frantic desperation.

"I love you, but you must go. Hurry! Run away and hide. Dangerous men are coming. Don't ever come back here, don't let them find you. I love you. Be strong, my darling. Always be strong. Promise? Live and be strong. We love you..."

Her goodbye kiss still burns on my cheek, her lips wet from her own tears. I try to remember more but the smoke and fire around me is like a fog causing my mind to haze.

As I run blindly down the street I can hear people calling for help, screaming in pain. Sobs tear through my chest and I start coughing from exertion, the smoke filling my lungs and halting my muscles.

I promised her I'd be strong, but how can I? Those bad men came for my papa in the midst of the fire. From my upstairs perch I could see them wrap something around his neck, but I didn't understand what was happening.

He had struggled in their grip, but maybe it was just a game? Papa has many friends who come at night, but this felt different. Only when I saw my papa stop struggling and thrown to the floor did I start to understand this terrible game.

I opened my mouth to scream, but someone pulled me back and put a hand over my mouth. My mother picked me up in her arms and hurried through our corridor down the servant's stairway, her hand silencing my sobs.

When we reached the servants entrance I saw a young boy by the door. My tears were streaming so constantly I couldn't see his face. Mother was speaking to him in quick whispers. She set me down and took my face in her hands.

"...Promise me to be strong, always. We will always love you, no matter what. Run quickly..."

With one final hug she removed my arms from her body and pushed me toward the boy. He grabbed my hand and pulled me away from my home and started to run down the street. I tried to release my hand from his tight grip, but when I turned around to reach for mother, she was gone.

My struggles only lasted a few moments before fear overcame all else. Fire is nipping at our heels. The wooden sidewalk burning to ash under our feet.

The whole city is ablaze. The air is black with smoke, the streets and buildings a fiery wall surrounding us. Papa is dead and probably mother too. I try to scream, but there is no sound.

Alone. I'm forever alone. I'm going to die here, burned alive.

Before I can sink to the ground and give in to the pain, I feel a squeezing pressure on my hand. Something is preventing my fall to the ground; something is frantically tugging on my hand, urging me forward.

Oh, that boy. The boy talking to mother...

I strain my wet eyes to see him, but only smoke fills my vision. My legs are still moving even though a cold numbness is spreading from my heart to my feet. That fiery heat pushes through the agony, pain overcoming my stupor. Through my unbearable sadness I feel that hand clasping mine, never loosening.

That hand is the anchor to my soul. Never stopping, moving forward through the hell around us.

All at once my feet leave the ground.

For a moment I think I have become an angel, souring up to heaven. Then a terrible sinking in my stomach, a whistling in the wind...

We plunge into icy water, the impact terrifying in its suddenness.

Falling, not flying. He made us jump.

I had never been in water deeper than a hip bath, and don't like the feeling of my body submerged completely in its depths. The pressure against my face and body is immense and the burns on my skin feel like they are pulsating.

The current is pulling my weak body further under, my legs too exhausted to kick. One moment I am burning to death, the next I am drowning. My chest is burning, like the air is dying to escape. Even under water, I feel fire.

Before I can give up the fight, I feel those fingers clench around my own. The water presses harder against my face and then my head is yanked above the surface.

The boy is holding me tight to his shaking chest. We are both breathing hard and I can feel him kicking his legs, swimming away from the smoke and fire near the ledge. The exhaustion and trauma are catching up to me and I am losing control of my own body.

Darkness surrounds me and I don't understand why.

"No! Keep your eyes open. Just a little bit longer. Kick your legs. Don't stop fighting," he pleads desperately.

"I can't. Let me sleep, please."

It takes all my strength to lift my eyelids. I look into his face for the first time. His skin is covered in soot, but something about his face sparks my memories. Maybe if I wasn't so tired, I would remember him...

"I promised to keep you safe," he breathes heavily. "You promised her something too. Remember? It's time to be strong. Your mother told you to be strong now."

"Mother..." I can feel my body start to shut down… the cold seeping through my veins.

"Be strong, Isabella. Be strong..."

End Notes:

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