A/N: So, this is my new story. I've been playing with different ideas and plots in my head for a while, and this one just stuck and wouldn't go away. I'd like to put a warning on the prologue, as some of you might find it disturbing since it will deal with the subject of cutting. This may seem dark at first, but I assure you, self-harm will not play a big part in the story. This Bella is not suicidal. There will be some angst, sure, but nothing compared to 'Loner'. That said, I'll just let you go ahead and read. Please let me know what you think!


Bella Swan (age thirteen) Forks, Washington

I was weighing the knife in my hand, surprised that it felt so light. It wasn't that big, but for some reason, I had expected it to be heavier. Instead, the sharp item just seemed small and insignificant in my hand, which felt wrong, considering the damage it could cause with just one swift move.

As I slowly raised my hand, letting the knife hover in the air just above my wrist, it hit me how easy it would be to end it all. The thought frightened me. There was something very scary and disturbing about how incredibly fragile the human body really was.

I found myself wondering how long it would take for my body to bleed dry. It was morbid, sure, and definitely not something a normal thirteen-year-old girl should be thinking about, but I couldn't help myself. I didn't have a death wish, but nonetheless was I curious.

What would it be like to see the blood flowing, coursing down my bare arms? It would no doubt be painful, but I wasn't sure which would cause me to pass out first - the pain, or the sight of the blood. I had never been able to handle that well.

I brought the knife closer, so close I could actually feel the cold steel against my skin. That's when I realized I was shaking. Maybe because of the power I was holding in my hand - the power of death - or maybe just because I knew deep down that what I was doing, no matter the intention, wasn't healthy.

Either way, it caused me to freeze in my tracks. Suddenly I was afraid to make even the slightest move. I had never intended to actually cut myself - I was just intrigued by the idea. But now it hit me how little it would take for my already trembling fingers to slip. I should just put the knife down, but instead I found myself squeezing it tighter.

And that's when I heard my mother's voice from the doorway.

"Isabella? Oh, dear God in Heaven, what are you doing?"

The knife slipped out of my hand and landed on the floor with a clatter that seemed to echo through the house.

I gasped and turned to look at my mom, unable to keep the guilt out of my voice. "Mom... I wasn't really-"

She cut me off, tears welling up in her eyes. "No matter how miserable you are, honey, this isn't the answer. Oh, God, what if I hadn't made it in time?" She mumbled the last part to herself.

My cheeks were burning with humiliation and I quickly shook my head, horrified that she would believe for a second that I had actually been about to seriously hurt myself. "Mom, I promise, I wasn't going to-"

Again she interrupted me, like I hadn't even spoken. "It's this house, isn't it? This town. It's sucking the life right out of you."

"What?" I gave her a look of confusion. "No, Mom, I'm fine. Really. I'm sorry I scared you. It won't happen again."

"Damn right, it won't." She swept her fingers under her eyes to wipe away a few tears, and I could see the determination set on her face. "Because we won't stay here another minute." She took a deep breath to compose herself. "Sweetheart, I want you to start packing your bags. We're leaving, first thing in the morning."

"Leaving?" I stared at her, not quite understanding what she was saying. "You mean we're moving away?"

She nodded. "That's exactly what I mean, Isabella. I've been miserable here for years, but it never occurred to me that you felt the same way. I'm so sorry - if I had known, I would've taken you away from here sooner. But this ends now. Things will be better for both of us once we're out of Forks, I promise."

Both of us? But what about...?

"Mom? What about Dad?"

She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. "Let me handle your father. He'll understand. He knows I've never been happy here." With that, she nodded once, as if to tell herself she was making the right decision. Then she spun around and left the room, leaving me to stare after her in shock and disbelief.

It wasn't until later I realized the knife was still lying on the floor, and my mother seemed to have forgotten all about its existence.

Chapter 1

Bella Swan (age twenty-three) Phoenix, Arizona

I quickly swallowed the last of my champagne and put the empty glass down before helping myself to a second slice of cake. It was huge, with white, some sort of vanilla, buttery frosting, and I suppose it tasted good, but I was really just eating because I was bored. It was a bad habit, and no doubt would I make myself get rid of it later.

It was Renee - my mother - who had dragged me to this opening of a new, fancy art gallery in town. She loved these kinds of events where she got to dress up nicely and mingle with the upper class of society - her words, not mine. To her, appearances was everything. Me? I couldn't care less.

Of course, you wouldn't know that by looking at me. I was always wearing expensive clothes and make-up, had my hair and nails done at least once a month, and I made sure I never gained a pound. To my mother, those were all signs of happiness. She just chose to ignore the dead look in my eyes, as well as how all my clothes were practically hanging on my body these days as I was slowly wasting away.

And not just physically.

I wouldn't say I was unhappy, at least not to the point of miserable - like Renee claimed to have been before she took me away from my dad about ten years ago and made me move across the country - but I wasn't exactly happy with my life, either. I just... was.

It wasn't that I was lonely, because I had lots of friends, or at least people I had known since high school and through college that I would still hang out with. My mother approved of them, of course, since they were all 'the right kind of kids', coming from wealthy, respectable families. That was important to her.

Again, to me, not so much. But over the years, I had become pretty good at pretending and hiding my true feelings. It was easier that way. It wasn't like Renee would ever take the time to really listen to me, anyway. She never had.

I couldn't really put my finger on why I always felt so off, like a stranger in my own body. Some would probably say it was because I missed my father, and I figured that was a part of the problem, but there had to be more to it than that.

After all, I would talk to Charlie on the phone every week, and ever since I turned eighteen and Renee could no longer keep me from visiting him, I always spent a few weeks every summer with my dad in Forks. We were good. Besides, my home was now in Phoenix. I lived in a nice apartment in the 'right' part of town, according to my mother, and I had a job that paid the bills.

Of course, standing behind the counter at Starbucks wasn't what she would call classy, and she never lost an opportunity to remind me of that. But, I was an adult, and she really had no say.

"There you are, Isabella. I thought I'd lost you in the crowd." Renee gently grabbed hold of my arm and pulled me to the side, allowing people to pass. Her eyes fell on the small paper plate in my hand and her eyebrows nearly disappeared up her hairline. "Are you eating cake again?"

I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes at her, thinking she was probably just surprised. Normally I would make a show of counting every single calorie. "I'm hungry," I lied, stubbornly licking the frosting off my fork. In reality, I felt like I was going to be sick. But she didn't need to know that.

Renee clicked her tongue in disapproval. "You shouldn't eat cake when you're hungry. And definitely not more than one piece. I'm telling you, that'll go straight to your thighs." A small laugh escaped her, and I just wanted to punch her. How could she say something like that to me? Couldn't she see how skinny I was? And even if I wasn't, it didn't give her any right to throw out a stupid comment like that.

Unfortunately, my mother never knew when to stop. "You've better watch what you eat, Isabella, or you'll end up like that fat kid over there." She nodded towards a small table in the back of the room, no more than twenty feet from where we were standing. I cringed at her crudeness, but was unable to stop myself from following her gaze.

The guy she was referring to looked to be about my age, maybe just a few years older. He had unruly but incredibly soft looking, bronze-colored hair, and from what I could see, perfectly flawless skin. He was slightly overweight, but what caused my heart to stop were his eyes. They were the most beautiful shade of green.

He wasn't alone, though. A pretty girl with dark, almost black, spiky hair was sitting next to him, her hand reaching for the wineglass in front of her, only to freeze in the air as her head shot up. Her hand dropped to the table as her eyes turned in our direction. I was totally unprepared for the fury in her eyes as she glared daggers at me and Renee.

It took a moment before it hit me that the guy was looking straight at me as well. I watched how his cheeks turned red and his eyes darkened. That's when I realized he - or both of them - must have heard every word my mother had just said. He quickly jumped up and hurried away, shoulders slumped and eyes on the floor. The girl got up and followed, but not before throwing one last hateful look my way.

And I just wanted to curl up in a hole and die of mortification.

I also wanted to scream and yell a thousand obscenities at my heartless mother, before or after I started crying. But most of all, I wanted to run after him. I probably would have, had my feet not been frozen at the spot. For a moment, I couldn't understand why I was reacting so strongly. After all, it wasn't me who had uttered those hurtful words. Iwasn't the one who had hurt his feelings.

So why did I feel like this?

I barely got to finish that thought before an image of those sad but beautiful, emerald eyes played up in my head. Over and over again.

"Come on, Isabella, there are some really important people I want you to meet." Renee tugged at my arm, completely oblivious to my inner turmoil, as well as the damage she had just caused by being her usual, tactless self.


"I can't believe you," I hissed, glaring at her. "Do you ever listen to yourself? Would it kill you to stop for just a second and thinkbefore opening your mouth?"

Her face was the picture of pure shock. "Isabella! Why are you talking to me this way?" She had the nerve to actually look hurt.

I let out a snort. "First of all, you knowI don't like when you call me Isabella. It's Bella, plain and simple. Second, are you telling me I hurt your feelings just now? That's a bit rich, coming from you. Did you see that guy's face? My God, mother, I've never been so embarrassed in my life!"

She actually had the decency to look ashamed. "I didn't mean to embarrass you, honey. I swear, I didn't intend for him to hear me."

Her lame words of apology only fueled my anger. "And that's supposed to make it okay? You insulted him, whether you meant for him to hear you or not. You don't talk about other people that way."

"Whatever. I'm sorry. Okay?" She shook her head in annoyance. "Now, can we please go mingle? I want to introduce you to some people who actually matters." When I just looked at her, folding my arms across my chest, she threw her arms up in frustration. "What?"

"Never mind." I sighed. "I'm really not in a mood for mingling. I'm leaving." She opened her mouth, but I beat her to it. "I'll take a cab. You stay as long as you want. I'll see you... whenever." I spun around, ignoring her protests. I'd had enough.

I was still upset when I got outside a couple of minutes later, the fresh air doing nothing to improve my already bad mood. The cabs were lining up across the street, but I remained where I was, breathing heavily in and out, as I wished I could just forget the last couple of hours. I was tempted to just walk home, but I figured that wouldn't be safe.

That's when I heard a noise behind me, causing me to jump. Someone else was out here.

I turned around, only to find myself once again looking into those green eyes. A soft gasp escaped me, and my hand flew up to my chest.

He seemed to be just as surprised as me. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he mumbled, looking away. Then he took a hesitant step back, obviously about to leave, and I finally snapped out of the daze.

"Wait!" I called out in panic, blushing when he stopped in his tracks and gave me a wary look. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second, forcing myself to take a deep breath. Then I opened my eyes again, relieved beyond words that he hadn't moved. In all honesty, I didn't think I could blame him if he would have taken the chance to bolt. I gulped. "I-I'm Bella."

He blinked in surprise, but seemed to recover pretty quickly. "Oh, um... I'm Edward." His eyes ran over me suspiciously, as if he didn't know what to make of me.

"Nice to meet you, Edward," I managed to get out. Once again, I was completely mesmerized by his eyes. And for some reason, he didn't seem able to look away, either. I shook my head in a weak attempt to clear my thoughts. "Look, I really need to apologize for my mother. She's..." I hesitated, not sure what to say to excuse Renee's rude behavior. "She's on medication," I finished lamely.

He snorted. "No, she's not."

"No." I sighed, realizing I couldn't lie to him. "But I swear to God, she should be." The corner of his mouth twitched slightly upward, but he remained silent. I swallowed hard. "Listen, Edward, you definitely don't owe me anything, and I wouldn't blame you if you just... turned around and walked away right now. But it's important to me that you understand that I'm nothing like my mother."

He tilted his head to the side. "Why are you telling me this? Why do you even care?"

"Because..." I stopped, suddenly at a loss for words. I didn't have any explanation to give him. "I just do," I told him truthfully, begging him with my eyes to understand.

"Look, Bella..." He let out a sigh. "You don't have to apologize for your mother. It's not like I'm not used to comments like that."

Something about his words really bothered me. "But that's just awful. You shouldn't have to-"

He cut me off abruptly. "It's just the way it is, Bella. When you look like this," he gestured to his large body with an eye-roll, "you get to hear shit like that all the time. And eventually, you just stop giving a damn. Believe me, the last thing I need is your pity."

Pity? I stared at him in disbelief. "Is that what you think this is?"

"Frankly?" He looked me right in the eyes. "Yes."

I was about two seconds away from bursting into tears, but I refused to start crying in front of him. "Well, you're wrong," I whispered, stubbornly holding his gaze, "I'm just being honest. I don't know you, but you seem like a really nice guy."

He actually laughed at that, but I didn't miss the bitterness in his voice as he spoke. "And that's all that matters, isn't it? Fucking bullshit." I opened my mouth, although I had no idea what I was going to say, but he went on, sounding almost amused, "So, Bella, if I seem like such a niceguy to you, would you go out with me?"

"Yes," I told him without even thinking. His mouth fell open and he stared at me in shock. That's when I realized he had just been sarcastic. It wasn't a serious question and he had never expected me to say yes. It made me both angry and sad at the same time. "But you obviously wouldn't go out with me," I told him sharply, unable to keep the hurt out of my voice. "Am I that repulsive?"

"What?" He looked genuinely confused for a moment, and then his eyes widened in alarm. "No! I never said... I mean, you're..." his voice trailed off and he lowered his eyes, clearly more than a little uncomfortable. I could relate to that feeling. And yet, I couldn't bring myself to walk away.

For a moment, we just stood there, looking at each other. Then his face softened just a little. "Would you really go out with me?" he asked quietly, an almost wistful note in his voice. All I could do was nod in response, because I didn't trust my voice to hold. "Well, then..." he started, only to be interrupted by a loud voice, coming from behind us.

"Edward, I'm ready. Let's get out of here."

My heart sank when I immediately recognized the dark-haired, pixie-like girl from inside the art gallery. Her eyes narrowed as she clearly recognized me as well. For a moment, I feared she was Edward's girlfriend, but then I saw they had exactly the same eyes. Maybe a sister, then? And a very protective one, judging by the way she was looking at me, her eyes burning a hole in my head.

"Alice..." Edward pinched the bridge of his nose before turning his apologetic eyes back to me. "Bella, I'd like you to meet my sister, Alice. Alice, this is Bella."

"Hi, Alice, it's nice to..." I started politely, but she interrupted me.

"Yeah, yeah, sure. Edward? Let's go." With that, she turned around and walked away, her purse tightly in one hand and her car keys in the other.

I just stared after her, my mouth open. Then I slowly turned back to Edward, who was looking after his sister with an unreadable expression on his face. I managed to force a strained smile. "Well, she seemed nice."

"I'm sorry, Bella." He sounded regretful, although I wasn't sure why. "I need to go." A pause. "Whether you believe me or not, it was nice meeting you." And he was gone.

It wasn't until I was already sitting in the cab that I realized Edward hadn't asked for my phone number, nor had I given him mine. Which meant I had no way of contacting him. I had a feeling he had just been about to ask me out for real when his sister walked up to us, but I couldn't know for sure. And it wasn't like I could ask him now.

What were the chances of me accidentally running into Edward again in this town? I figured pretty slim. I felt a big lump form in my throat at the thought of never seeing him again.

I didn't like that thought at all.