V. Dark Fate

"Hey Bells, how was school?"

I jumped, startled by Charlie's close proximity as I first walked into the house.

School? Well, it started off horribly, but somehow the day brightened when Edward Cullen decided to stand up for me against Newton. The only catch is that I have to deal with his nerve-wracking presence for at least a week to work on our psychology project together. It's a surprise that I'm not having a complete mental freaking breakdown right now, but maybe I'm still in shock.

"It was fine, dad; just the usual."

"Good," he nodded, "Good, good."

I noticed that Charlie was freshly showered and shaven, wearing his best pair of pants and a designer shirt that my mother had bought him ages ago. As I took a few sniffs of the air, I concluded that my day couldn't possibly get any more bizarre. Cologne swirled around him, only masking a faint amount of alcohol. Could it be that Charlie hadn't had anything to drink since this morning?

I raised an eyebrow, "You look nice. What's the occasion?"

As I saw guilt and fear flash in his eyes, I began to doubt my ability to identify emotions. For what possible reasons would Charlie feel guilty?

He tugged at his collar, struggling to loosen it as tiny beads of moisture formed on his forehead, "Oh, uh yeah, it's just something down at the station. As police chief, I figured that I ought to look nice," he forced a smile, avoiding my eyes.

Clearly something was wrong if Charlie morphed from a belligerent drunk into a nervous and sober person. So, for the first time since I could remember, I decided to be a good daughter.

"Are you okay?"

His eyes snapped to mine, narrowed in irritation as his face flushed with anger, "Yes Isabella, I'm fine. It's just adult stuff, completely official police business," he huffed in aggravation, "Since when did you become so goddamned nosey?"

I suddenly felt my back hit the wall, startled that my feet were unconsciously backing away from Charlie. I was dumbfounded. Charlie never used that tone with me. That tone was reserved for Renee and Tanya.

I gnawed on my lip, clueless as to how to redeem myself from such a low level. Charlie practically despised Renee and Tanya, where as he could actually tolerate me, for whatever reason. Maybe because I gave him the silence that he craved for. If there was one thing that I was good at, it was at ignoring people, or rather, allowing them to ignore me.

I was at a complete loss for words. But even if I knew what to say, there wasn't a chance in the world I would stand up to Charlie, no matter how much his snap hurt me.

Did this mean that he hated me now, too?

Was he just like everyone else?

"I, uh, I should go do homework." I slipped past him, shrugging him off as he reached to grab my sleeve. I needed to escape. I needed to get to my room, shut the door, and pretend that I was living in complete solitude, invisible and oblivious to everyone and everything around me.

"Bella wait," he called out as I reached the top of the stairs. I froze, like a chicken, even though I should have ignored him in a fit of resentment and furiously stalked off to my room. All I was trying to do was be a good daughter and make sure everything was okay, how dare he call me nosey? I was fuming.

So why couldn't I act like it?

Instead, I merely turned around and gazed at him with a neutral expression, praying that I didn't do anything else to upset him.

"Bella, I'm…,"

I stiffened. Was he seriously about to apologize? If he did, I was going to grab a crab out of the ocean that I was drowning in and let it pinch me, because this day was obviously a dream that my mind conjured up to torture me. I held my breath, waiting for him to speak the words that would instill hope abandoned long ago.

I shouldn't have been surprised when Charlie left me to suffocate in the middle of crab infested water, their piercing pinches a sharp reminder that no, this wasn't a dream, and my life still very much sucked.

He drug his hands down his face, pulling the wrinkles of fatigue as he did so. Sighing, he merely hung his head, "I just wanted to tell you that Jacob called and said for you to call him back as soon as possible."

"Okay," I shifted my weight from foot to foot, "Can I go now?"

"Yeah, sure," he sighed, "When Tanya gets back from the cemetery, keep an eye out for her." Grumbling, he added, "And make sure her ass stays out of my liquor cabinet."

Defeated, I merely nodded and waited until he left before I headed back downstairs to call Jake. If I'm was being honest with myself, I didn't even need to return his phone call. I already knew what he was going to tell me, but part of me wanted to stay positive, wanted to believe that he wouldn't do such a thing, especially not on a day like today. No friend would ever do something like that.

"Hey, Bells!" He picked up on the third ring and I could practically imagine him beaming on the other line. His infectious smile was one of the reasons why he was my favorite person in the world.

"Hey Jake, my dad said you called earlier?" Hesitation and fear laced my tone, having a pretty good idea of what was coming next.

"Oh yeah, about that…" I can sense the rejection and apology coming, so I decided to make it easier on him.

"You called to bail on me?" It's a question asked in defeat, and I found myself wishing that I had the courage to make Jake feel like an ass for ditching his best friend on a day like this. Did other people have friends like this? In all the books that I had read, true friends stayed by their best friend's side during the worst circumstances, completely selfless and self-sacrificing, but that was fiction. This was real life.

And Jake was all I had.

If I separated from him, it would hurt me so much more than it would hurt him.

"Oh Bells, I'm so freaking sorry, but Leah Clearwater asked me out. Can you believe that?" He was ecstatic, but I remained mute, much to Jake's dismay, "Oh Bella, you have to know who Leah Clearwater is, right?"

"Nope," I twirled the phone cord around my finger, watching the tip turn blue as my circulation cut off, sighing as the numbness set in, "Can't say that I do."

"Well she's this hippie chick up at the Res, well known for her beliefs about sharing peace and love." I imagined him waggling his eyebrows at me, because yes, he's a cheesy teenager like that.

"So she's a whore?"

He gasped, "No, she's not a whore. She's just really friendly and compassionate. She said that she regrets not talking to me that much and she wants to get to know me better."

I nod, "So she's a whore under false pretenses?"

There was a pause, and I knew that he was taking a few moments to decipher what I meant. "What? No, she's not-" he huffed, "Fine, call her what you want, but she's hot and she asked me out!" He was giddy, and as much as I wanted to hate him for ditching me, who was I kidding? There wasn't a single person in this entire world that would choose someone like me over a beautiful girl.

I just wished that there could be one time, one person, that I came first with.

"Bells, you there?"

"Huh?" I shook my head, ridding myself of dangerous dreams, fruitless fantasy, "Oh yeah, sorry Jake. My brain just wondered off."

He chuckled, "Yeah, I could tell. That head of yours is a dangerous place, Bells."

I froze.

My head, my brain, my grades- my good grades from a period of long ago.

Begging and pleading for Them to come to my award's ceremony. Taking meaningless pictures, smiling of dizziness from the flashes, and then grinning as we said our goodbyes, completely ignorant of the fate that would follow.

"Jesus Christ, did you zone out on me again?"

I grabbed clumps of my limp and lifeless hair, begging for the pain in my scalp to distract me from the agony in my heart. "I-I-I have to g-go."

"Bella, wait, don't hang up on-"

I slammed the phone down, helplessly watching as my chest began to rise and collapse rapidly, heart threatening to beat out of my chest, running away from my poisonous emotions forever. Black ink tainted my blood, slowly spreading throughout the veins, infecting every organ with agony. I wished that I had a tourniquet to bind around my heart, isolating it from the poison, squeezing tight until I was floating in numbness.

The phone rang again.

And again.

And again.

I wanted to rip it off the hook, to take my frustrations out on something else for once. I wasn't stupid; I knew that my body was weak. Everything about me was weak. I was tired of being tortured, of torturing myself in hopes of redemption. This was my fault. I had grown to know it, come to accept it, so where was my opportunity to brush away the darkness that I had cloaked this family in?

A flash of bronze caught my eye out of the kitchen window.

There was no way…

No, of course not. He had specifically stated that he wouldn't be over until tomorrow afternoon. Today had just been a really stressful day and my mind wanted to make things worse by playing tricks on me.

Bang, Bang, BANG.

Ignore it.

"Hey Swan, open up! I know you're in there."

I growled, stalking over to the door, wildly swinging it open, "What do you want?" I imagined that I looked fierce and furious and ferocious, but by the way his emerald eyes stared at me in mockery and amusement, I knew I was everything but.

Still, I found confidence by pretending.

He smirked, "Man, what is it about me that pulls you out of your shell?" Forcing his way through the door, not the least bit bothered by his lack of invitation, he plops down on the sofa, peeking over at me, "You know, if you talked to those dicks at school like you talk to me, I'm willing to bet that over half of them would leave you alone."

"What do you want?" I repeated, a little less harsh this time. Maybe if I was nicer, he would be more compliant. He would leave my house sooner.

He ignored me, snatching the remote off the coffee table and turning on some sports games. I was just about to leave him and escape to my room when he announced, "I'm supposed to hang out with Tanya tonight. Any idea when she'll be home?"

"She went…" I trailed off, not knowing exactly what to say. I didn't know much about the dynamics of Tanya and Edward's friendship. I didn't know how close they were, and I certainly didn't know whether or not she had shared her past with him. Playing it safe, l cleared my throat, "She went out for a while. She'll probably be back in about an hour or so."

He nodded, "You didn't go with her to the cemetery?" He spoke in such a sickly sweet conversational voice that I thought I had misunderstood him.

I gawked at him, "You know?"

I was positive that he thought I was the most brash and socially awkward person to ever live, but surprisingly he just chuckled, as if death and broken families are the most common thing in the world.

Maybe they are.

And as awful of a person as it may make me, I find comfort in that thought; the thought of knowing that for once in my life, I'm not alone.

"Of course I know, Bella. Tanya's my best friend," he grins at me under the guise of harmlessness. He must think I'm stupid. I've survived this family long enough to know that he's just a bag of lies, that he's just like everyone else.

If he knows about Tanya's parents, he must know that every single thing is my fault, which brings me back to today's fundamental question.

"Why did you defend me, then?"

His eyes widen in fear instead of narrow in confusion, and I know that I've caught him. What I've caught him in, I don't know, but I caught him nonetheless.

He forced out a chuckle, "Bella, you've been the school's punching bag for years."

"Exactly, so why after all this time, you finally decided to step in? You've had years to save me, but you never did. You never even looked my way before today." I can feel my cheeks warm as I regret my wording. I can't believe I said 'save', like I was some kind of damsel in distress.

I was like Hercules. An exhausted and weak Hercules, weary from attempting to keep my world afloat for so long, but Hercules nonetheless.

Slowly, he rose from the sofa, walking until he stood directly in front of me, his breath fanning over my face. Cigarettes and cinnamon. "Bella, you have to know why." His eyes were searching mine, just like in those romance novels littered across every inch of my room, but something was off. I could feel it, some invisible force tainting this experience.

Almost instantaneously, I realized it was his eyes. They should have been a vibrant, sparkling shade of emerald. They looked like that when I surprised him in my truck, when I barked back with attitude that he wasn't expecting. Now, jade orbs with ebony swirling around the edges stared back at me, the color of his eyes when he was speaking to Victoria, when he stood up to Mike in Psychology.

Something was wrong.

I took a step back, shaking my head, "No Edward, I don't know." I attempted to slow my breathing, easing the quivers in my voice, "So why don't you explain it to me?"

A lethal smile greets me, "This has been going on for too long," he stepped forward, and with alarm, I realized that my back was hitting the wall. Crap, this was turning out just like all of the stories I had read. He was either going to seduce, kidnap, or kill me. I couldn't really decide which was worse.

He reached out, gingerly tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, "No one is going to fuck with you anymore, Bella. It's my senior year, and I want to do something to make an impression. I want people to remember me." His leans forward, his lips brushing my ear, "I want you to remember me."

And then he's gone. Literally, in the blink of an eye.

I watch as he plops back down on his original spot on the sofa, calling over, "So if anyone messes with you, just tell me and I'll make sure that they learn their lesson, got it?"

Dumbfounded, I nod.

Well, that didn't turn out like I had expected, but then again, I was basing my experience off of novels. I couldn't believe that I had been so foolish as to compare real life to fiction, but what else was I supposed to do? It's not like I had anything else to go off of.

"Hey Bella?" I was jerked out of my thoughts, watching Edward pat the seat beside him, "Why are you standing in your own house? Come take a seat, make me feel welcome and engage me in a little friendly conversation."

I should have said no. I should have marched up to my room, put on some music, finished my homework, and read like it was just an ordinary day. But I knew that even if I blasted the music for our neighbors to hear and became absorbed into my favorite books, there was no way that I could even pretend to ignore Edward Cullen. There was just something about him that demanded my attention- whether it was his presence, his attitude, or his looks, I wasn't quite sure.

Maybe it was just the simple fact that he was the first person in years to take an interest in me.

Regardless, whether or not my conscience was ready to fully accept it, I was a goner when it came to Edward Cullen.

Sealing my fate, I crawled onto the sofa and tucked my feet beneath me. I glanced up at him, "So, what do you want to watch?"