Altered Reality

Twilight Saga AU. After the biology lesson from hell, the mysterious Edward Cullen never came back. What kind of life will Bella have? Better? Worse? Just different? ANGST

I don't own Twilight—it belongs to Stephenie Meyer.

His face was absurdly handsome—with piercing, hate-filled eyes. The look only lasted a second, but it chilled me.

"Never mind, then. I can see that it's impossible." He turned on his heel without a second glance, and disappeared out of the door.

"How did your first day go, dear?" the receptionist turned to me and asked maternally.

"Fine," I lied.

When I got back to the truck, it seemed like a haven. I sat inside for a while, but I was cold enough to need the heater, so I turned the key. I headed back to Charlie's house, fighting tears the whole way there.

My second day at Forks High was easier—it hadn't taken me long to find a ready-made rut that it would be easy to slot into. Mike sat with me in English, and then walked me to my next class. Chess Club Eric didn't seem hugely impressed with my change of tour guide, but being in need of an ego boost; I couldn't help but feel flattered by both of their attentions.

Okay, so I was caught unawares and gave the wrong answer in Trig, and I dished out a little grievous bodily harm during a game of volleyball in gym class, but the low point of the day centered more around one particular person.

And he wasn't even there.

Edward Cullen, he of the fearsome glare and model good looks, didn't show up for school that day, though I felt on edge every single second. I dreaded walking into a class to find him sat next to the only empty seat—I could see now why people would choose to sit elsewhere.

I was both relieved and annoyed. Part of me wanted to air the speech that I'd been practicing the previous night as I lay sleepless in my bed, while the rest of me wanted to find a comfort zone in Forks just like the one I'd left behind in Arizona, and forget all about the Biology lesson from Hell.

So long as Edward "The Stare" Cullen kept away, maybe I could do that?

Some of the shine of being the new girl had worn off, and I felt a little less like I had two heads, which was a lot better. At lunch, I sat with a large group and began to get to know a few more people besides Mike, Eric, and Jessica.

The Cullen and Hale siblings—minus Edward—sat at their table, set apart from the rest of the student body. Once or twice, out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw them sneak a glance, but I was sure that I had imagined it. Such pale, beautiful, inapproachable people wouldn't think I was worth their notice, I was sure.

But there was something about them that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Something that screamed for attention, and where others seemed creeped out by their apparent perfection, Mike specifically, I found it made me want to know more. It made me want their approval—to be accepted by them.

Judging by my one and only contact with their clan, I could see that wouldn't exactly be forthcoming, yet I still couldn't figure out my fascination with them.

Mike walked me to biology after lunch, but I was too consumed by the pool of dread building up inside of me to really hear what he was saying, so I just gave a slight smile and made polite noises in response. It definitely didn't dampen his enthusiasm.

No Edward Cullen.

My entire body relaxed as Mike walked me to my seat, still talking at me—I picked up something about a trip to the beach, and wished that it would involve a flight to warmer climes. Somewhere where the dampness didn't seem to seep through your skin, and where the locals didn't go to such extremes in liking or disliking you.

It was becoming obvious to anyone within a twenty mile radius that Mike was being slightly overfriendly with the new girl—me. It was nice that he was making me feel so welcome, but I began to worry about what he expected in return, and whether I could let him down gently. Being such a small town, I got the impression that news would travel fast, and I didn't want to dig my social grave before I'd gotten a chance to enjoy my new found popularity.

I gave Mike the slip at the end of the day, and as I reached the safe haven of my truck and made all heads turn my way by firing the beast into life, I saw the Cullens again.

This time, I tried not to focus on the ridiculous perfection of their faces. Looking at what they wore, expensive but subtle, I realized that they were also rich as well as gorgeous. Still, it hadn't bought them acceptance. I guessed that after my short time here in this wet corner of the world, social acceptance by my peers was the one thing I seemed to have that they didn't.

Yay,gome! I thought to myself sarcastically as I pulled my behemoth of a truck out of the parking lot.

I stopped by the Thriftway to pick up some groceries—Charlie obviously wasn't the domesticated type—then I made some dinner and got into my sweats, before sitting and responding to the increasingly more desperate emails that had been building up from my mom. If she didn't hear from me by five-thirty, it seemed that Interpol would be knocking on the door.

Though I'd already read it, I found my copy of WutheringHeights and started it again—partly for pleasure, and partly to refresh my mind as it was what we were currently studying in my new English class. I was lying on my bed, engrossed, when I heard Charlie come home.

"Bella?" he called as I jogged down the stairs.

"Hey, Dad. Welcome home." It amused me slightly that he thought it was someone else for a brief moment.


There was a period of silence as he took off his gun and I busied myself around the kitchen.

"What's for dinner?" He looked wary. It seemed that he still remembered Mom's cooking—for some reason that gave me an emotional ache. He must have a long memory.

"Steak and potatoes.

At that, he wandered into the living room to watch some TV while I finished up, and when I called him back in, he seemed pleasantly surprised.

"Smells good, Bells."


We never were great conversationalists, but that was good. Being so alike, we ate in companionable silence for a short while, and then Charlie seemed to feel a little more comfortable as he got up for seconds. Obviously, to make him talk, I would need to feed him—if talking was what I wanted.

"So, how did you like school? Have you made any friends?"

"Well, I have a few classes with a girl called Jessica. I sit with her friends at lunch. And there's this boy, Mike, who's very friendly. Everybody seems pretty nice." Withoneoutstandingexception, I added mentally.

"That must be Mike Newton. Nice kid—nice family. His dad owns the sporting goods store just outside of town. He makes a good living off all the backpackers who come through here."

Charlie sat back down with his second plate, and I observed him before finally vocalizing the question burning in my throat.

"Do you know the Cullen family?"

"Dr. Cullen's family? Sure. Dr. Cullen's a great man."

"They...the kids...are a little different. They don't seem to fit in very well at school."

Charlie's reaction took me by surprise. He looked angry, and then launched into a speech about how lucky such a small town was to have a skilled doctor like Dr. Cullen, and how the children that he and his wife had adopted gave no trouble. Not only were they rich and beautiful, but it seemed that, in my dad's eyes, they were also the perfect family.

Something they had that I didn't.

Sheepishly, I backpedalled, shocked at the amount of words that I'd heard Charlie utter, and without hesitation or awkwardness. I'd obviously hit some kind of nerve. Maybe he was aware that he didn't have a perfect family, too.

After we'd finished eating, he cleared the table, I did the dishes, and then Charlie disappeared back into the living room.

As I trudged up the stairs to start on my math homework, I was aware of the beginnings of a new routine. I fell asleep quickly that night, and the rest of the week went by without major issue. Maybe that comfort zone wouldn't be so hard to find after all?

By Friday, faces at the school were becoming familiar, even if I couldn't remember all of their names. The student body had also learned to give me a wide berth during volleyball.

I hadn't lost that on-edge feeling as I thought about coming across Edward Cullen again, but he still didn't show. I wondered if he was sick—if that was why he'd looked as if he was going to chew me up and spit me out during that first Biology class.

After a lunch where I'd found myself agreeing to a trip to La Push Ocean Park that I hadn't really wanted to go on, I walked into Biology and took my desk, feeling okay in that I knew Glare Monster Cullen wasn't in school today.

Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was responsible for his absence, somehow. Maybe he resented the way I'd slotted into Forks High society without even trying, where his family had so obviously failed? Not that they seemed to put any effort into social integration. They kept almost exclusively to themselves.

No one except the blond, Jasper Hale, noticed that the rest of us existed, and he seemed permanently on edge—as if he expected one of his fellow students to jump up and bite him at any moment. I wondered if he was on drugs, whether they all were, but then I dismissed that as speculation.

With the enigma of the Cullens playing on my mind, I began to wonder if I was becoming a fangirl with a conspiracy theory. They kept to themselves because they were outcasts, too different to the masses, and I already had vast experience of that high school trope.

Where in Hell had Edward Cullen had disappeared to? The question frustrated me over and over, and I dreamed up many more conspiracies with my overactive imagination, try as I might to think of something else to occupy me.

At the weekend, Charlie worked and I made the most of the quiet time to get a few errands out of the way. After checking out the poorly stocked library, I decided that I was going to have to drive to Olympia or Seattle and find a decent bookstore.

I hoped that I'd have enough money to keep me in books and gas.

Just like any weekend in Arizona, it went by far too quickly, and people greeted me while I made my way through the parking lot on Monday morning; I waved and smiled back at them.

Mike took his accustomed seat by my side in English, and I sailed through the pop quiz on WutheringHeights. All in all, I was feeling a lot more comfortable than I thought I would feel by this point. More comfortable than I had ever expected to feel here—even when we walked out of class to find the air full of swirling flakes of white.

"Wow, it's snowing." Mike stated the obvious.

The wind bit at my cheeks and nose, while the snow swirled around me. "Ew."

Mike was surprised. "Don't you like snow?"

"No. That means it's too cold for rain," I replied grumpily. "Besides, I thought it was supposed to come down in flakes—you know, each one unique and all that. These just look like the ends of Q-tips."

"Haven't you ever seen snow fall before?"

"Sure I have...on TV."

Mike laughed, until he was cut off by a well-aimed snowball to the back of his head. We both turned to see where it came from. I had my suspicions—Eric was walking away from the scene in completely the wrong direction for our next class together.

It seemed Mike thought the same, as he began scraping up a pile of white mush.

"I'll see you at lunch, okay?" I headed towards the building, calling back over my shoulder. "Once people start throwing wet stuff, I go inside."

Mike nodded, his eyes never leaving Eric.

After Spanish, I walked to the cafeteria with Jessica. It seemed that snow was the topic on everyone's lips, and in their hair or on their faces. Jessica found my makeshift shield made from a binder hilarious, and I made sure my expression passed on the message that I wouldn't appreciate a snowball from her, either.

Mike caught us up as we walked in the doors, laughing, with ice melting the spikes in his hair. He and Jessica were talking animatedly about a planned snow fight as we got in line for food. I glanced toward the Cullen table out of habit, getting that familiar being-talked-about sensation.

Still no Edward Cullen. This time, I was sure I saw the tall blonde girl stare at me in a very unfriendly way—I guess some traits even ran in adoptive families.

Jessica pulled on my arm. "Hello? Bella? What do you want?"

I looked down, my ears burning. Reminding myself that I hadn't done anything wrong, I tried not to feel self-conscious.

"What's with Bella?" Mike asked Jessica.

"Nothing. I'm fine." I grabbed a sandwich and a soda, and faked a smile as I followed them to the table.

While I ate, I stole one or two glances at the Cullens. They were laughing. Jasper and Emmett had their hair entirely saturated with melting snow, and Alice and Rosalie leaned away as Emmett shook himself dry like a dog. They were enjoying the snowy day just like everyone else, only they looked more like a scene from a movie than the rest of us.

I wondered what their reaction would be if I "casually" wandered up and asked if Edward was okay, and then I decided against it. Something told me that their reaction wouldn't be pleasant—the blonde's perfect eyes had warned me of that earlier.

"Bella, what are you staring at?" Jessica intruded, her eyes following my stare.

"The Cullens. I don't think they like me," I confided, then put my head down on my arm.

"The Cullens don't like anybody...well, they don't notice anybody enough to like them."

"Stop looking at them," I hissed.

Jessica snickered but did as I asked, and I made sure that she knew I meant violence if it didn't stay that way.

Mike interrupted us then—he was arranging the epic battle of the blizzard in the parking lot after school and wanted us to join. Jessica agreed enthusiastically. The way she looked at Mike left little doubt that she would be up for anything he suggested.

I kept silent, and realized that I would have to hide in the gym until the parking lot cleared.

For the rest of the lunch hour, I conversed with my friends around the table, even if my mind was very much sat with the Cullens. I told myself it was because I was relieved that Biology would be Edward Cullen-free yet again.

I didn't really want to walk to class with Mike—he seemed to be a popular target for snowball snipers—but when we went to the door, everyone other than me groaned in unison. Rain was washing away all the traces of the snow in icy ribbons down the side of the walkway. Pulling my hood up, I was secretly pleased, and listened to Mike's complaints with good humor on the way to building four.

I made my way to my table. Mr. Banner was walking around the room, distributing microscopes and slides. Listening to the pre-class buzz and doodling on the cover of my notebook, I almost jumped out of my skin when a hand placed itself on my shoulder.

"Hey, 'Zona."

My hand pressed to my chest as my heart beat frantically; I saw Mike looking back down at me.

"Seeing as Cullen seems to be missing in action, do you mind if I take his seat? I get the feeling it will be good for my grades."

"Um, yeah. Sure. Go ahead." So much for letting him down gently, I thought, and shuffled away from his side of the desk as he brought his things over. I felt very aware of many pairs of eyes in the classroom taking in Mike Newton's switch of seats.

Mike settled himself in, and before conversation could start again, thankfully, Mr. Banner started class. We had to work in pairs and sort a box of slides of onion root tip cells into the phases of mitosis and label them correctly. No books and twenty minutes to do it in.

"Ladies first, partner?" Mike asked. I looked up to see his familiar beam. I chewed my lip thoughtfully.

"Or I could start, if you wanted." Mike's smile faded.

"No. I'll go ahead."

I showed off, just a little—I'd already done this lab and knew what to look for. Mike was suitably impressed and praised the heavens for being paired with someone intelligent for a change. My eyes flicked back to the girl who he'd sat with previously, and her glum expression made me wince as I realized that she'd heard.

The problem with being the object of the most popular boy in school's affection was that it often helped you make it onto the most hated list—though, one girl, Lauren, seemed to be bitchy enough to have already topped that list of her own accord. She was one of the few people who hadn't immediately budged along and made room for me in the popularity circle.

As we—as in I—had already finished way ahead of the rest of the class, Mike started to make small talk. Really loud small talk.

"So, Bella. Didn't you think Mike should get a chance with the microscope?" Mr. Banner walked over and picked up our answer sheet. "Have you done this lab before?"

I smiled sheepishly. "Not with onion root."

"Whitefish blastula?"


Mr. Banner nodded. "Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?"

"Yes." I admitted, cringing at the thought that others might think I was bragging.

"Well, I guess it's good that you two decided to be lab partners. Mr. Newton could use a little encouragement, and it seems that he's developed a sudden enthusiasm for biology thanks to you." He looked between the two of us, and then walked away.

Blushing at the double entendre—which the murmured chuckle amongst my fellow students alerted me to—I began doodling again, and Mike continued to talk, albeit at a lower volume than before. Now and again I couldn't help but laugh quietly at something he'd said.

It was nice to have someone to sit next to who I felt comfortable with. Someone who made me laugh. Eventually, I became unaware that others were looking at us, watching our every move, and I soon lost my feeling of ease.

After the bell rang, we shrugged into our raincoats and Mike's endless chatter continued all the way to Phys Ed. Mike was on my team today, and he chivalrously covered my position as well as his own. When it was my turn to serve, my team ducked warily out of the way.

The rain was just a mist as I walked back to the parking lot—on my own for once as Mike had football practice in the gym. I was happier when I was in the dry cab, getting the heater running and not caring about the roar of the ancient engine. I unzipped my jacket, put the hood down, and fluffed my damp hair so the heater could dry it on the way home.

As my foot touched the gas and I inched forward, I saw Jessica in the rear view mirror. She did not look happy, and when her eyes met mine, I was left in no doubt that it was me that she was angry at.

In the morning, after another evening that fit my new found routine, I opened my eyes and it took a moment for me to register what was different. My room seemed much lighter than usual, and for a dreamy disorientated second, I thought I was back in Phoenix. Then the cold hair hit my skin as I sat up, and I was reminded that I was in a much different climate.

Walking over to the window, I saw that today was miraculously fog free, and though the sky was still dove grey and cloudy, the beams that did make it though seemed to reflect more brightly.

A quick look at the yard confirmed the reason for the glare, but I groaned and twisted up my face in dismay.

Snow...and lots of it. Not just in the yard but on my truck and the road, too. The expected film of wetness that always clung to everything in Forks had been transformed into glittering ice.

Okay, I had to admit that the winter wonderland outside was pretty, but I'd seen Bambi once or twice before, and I knew exactly how today was going to play out. Somehow, with my coordination, I knew I wasn't about to discover a latent talent for ice dancing.

Charlie had already gone to work, so the used glass on the drainer and drying footprints on the floor told me. I thought for a moment how different life was living with him as opposed to Mom. With Charlie if felt like I was living alone-like I had my own place. The solitude was quite agreeable.

Knowing I should set off sooner, thanks to the weather, I had a quick bowl of cereal and a gulp or two of orange juice from the carton. Thinking back to Jessica's face, I wondered what to expect when I saw her next. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that Mike's attention meant that she was highly displeased with me.

I'd never had this kind of drama back in Phoenix. Was this the beginning of the end of my new found popularity, or just part of the price to pay for punching so high above my weight?

Locking the door to the house behind me, I stiffened my arms and legs, and then made like a fawn on a frozen lake. Surprisingly, I made it to my truck without landing on my ass, though it had to be said that my side mirror played a huge in keeping me upright.

I resolved myself on a day spent walking like Frankenstein, and tried not to think about the snowballs that would no doubt be flying.

Once I'd tentatively backed my truck out into the street, I began to ponder my transformation from invisible girl back in my former high school, and whether it was some change I hadn't noticed in myself, or just novelty that had turned me into Forks High's newest femme fatale. Maybe Phoenix boys had too good of a memory of my early teenage awkwardness, and my acute lack of grace was somehow seen as cute to those who didn't know that it wasn't just a phase?

Who knew? All I did know was that Mike's overenthusiastic Labrador act and the obvious competition stemming from it—most notably from Eric, Jessica, and Lauren—was making me feel uncomfortable. Some people just don't cope well with that kind of limelight, and a large part of me wanted it to blow over so I could be invisible once more.

Watching the town go by as I pondered the situation, I noticed that driving my truck was easier than expected. Snow wasn't the traffic nightmare I'd thought it would be, though I still wasn't taking any chances.

Once I'd reached the school parking lot and climbed out, I discovered the reason my ancient hunk of metal had no problems. Charlie must have gotten up early to fit the snow chains that crisscrossed my tires.

I took a sharp intake of breath, and my heart clenched. The act of parental concern overwhelmed me—it wasn't something I was accustomed to. So used to being the one taking care of things instead of someone taking care of me, Charlie's wordless expression was hard to swallow, and suddenly I was a little girl rather than the old before her time teenager that I'd learned to be.

While I gripped the back quarter of my truck for emotional support, my reverie was interrupted by a sudden squealing sound.

My eyes sought out the source of the amplifying screech, and some deep hidden survival instinct fired into life inside me as my eyes sought out the threat. A number of half-recognizable faces also looked around wildly.

I noticed the Cullens walking up the snow-covered steps turn in unison, and following their gazes I saw what it was I was searching for. A dark blue truck was skidding, tires locked and brakes useless, curving an arc across the ice in my direction.

Without some kind of miracle intervening, it was going to hit the back of my truck—right where I was standing.

I didn't have time to close my eyes or even lift my arms up in a futile attempt to shield myself. All I could do was stand there, dumbfounded. The last thing I registered was the crunch of van smashing against my sturdy old truck, and a sudden solid coldness as I was sandwiched between.

There was an almighty lurch, and I felt myself thrown across the parking lot, landing quite some distance from where I was originally hit by the truck. For a second or two I lay there, wondering what kind of miracle had intervened.

A quick look down at myself told me that everything was where it was supposed to be, and there wasn't the slightest hint of blood. Tentatively sitting up, I became aware of a flurry of shouts and rushing feet behind me, and I turned to fend off the witnesses before they crowded me.

I was a little stunned to see that they didn't as much as look in my direction, instead they headed straight for my truck.

A little shocked that a little twisted metal was more interesting than the fact that I'd unbelievably managed to avoid injury, I tried to get to my feet, but froze as a girl gave out a blood curdling scream. I saw the recoil on more than one person's face, and then things got even crazier.

Tyler, the boy who had been driving the van, looked out of his window, a cut on his head bleeding. His eyes found something on the floor, and then I half-sat, half-knelt on the floor, listening to his mantra of, "Oh God. Oh please, no," and watching the expression of horror on his face.

Had someone intervened? Pushed me out of the way and gotten themselves horribly killed in the process.

A cold sweat flowed over me and I rushed over, only to freeze at the sight of a bloody sneaker on the floor. I looked down at my feet, and then at the single abandoned show. It was just like my own. It even had that same scuff on the side where I'd tripped while I was…

"No…" I took a step backwards and shook my head. No, I was imagining things. I'd been hit by a truck and no doubt I'd hit my head really hard. My shoes were on my feet, so that bloody sneaker couldn't possibly be mine.

As a flow of people moved in streams to pool around the site of the accident, one small group moving against the tide caught my attention. The big Cullen—Emmett—was manhandling his brother, Jasper, and Rosalie Hale and Alice Cullen were also trying to divert his attention.

In that moment, it struck me—that dark eyed look of absolute hate and violence was the very same as Edward had given me that day in Biology, though luckily it wasn't aimed straight at me. Still, the expression chilled me to my core.

I made to follow them, but by now the crowd was thick, and when I said, "Excuse me," my fellow students didn't seem to listen. Soon, the place was teeming with teachers, and then the ambulance showed up, lights and siren blazing.

Hanging back, I waited to see who it was that had saved my life, trying to ignore that nagging doubt that ate at me, asking why no one had even looked at me or asked me how I was.

Teachers ushered shell shocked students inside the main hall, and I turned to go myself, before someone realized I'd been involved and tried to ship me off to hospital. As I tried to move through the throng, I heard two boys in front of me talking.

"What happened? Did you see?" Though I was sure I'd seen his face, his voice was unfamiliar.

"Girl got hit by Tyler's truck. Pretty messy." Ben—the second boy's name was Ben.

"Oh, shit. No way! Who was it?"

I sucked huge mouthfuls of air and listened carefully.

"It was the new girl, Bella Swan."

I took one, and then two steps away from the boys, and then turned and ran into the trees. It was only when I realized that I didn't have to weave my way through the crowd that my brain finally began to accept that what they were saying was the truth.


Ripped out of my life at such a moment, when I finally saw just how much I needed a family as much as my family needed me, I couldn't quite let go of this world.

Whenever I headed home, I sat on my bed, looking around at the shrine that was my room in Charlie's house. Sometimes he even came and sat with me—I liked the companionable silences. On very rare occasions, he even spoke to me, though I couldn't reply.

Mom came to Forks to help Charlie with the arrangements, and she stayed for a few days after the funeral. She was pretty hysterical for most of it. Watching my dad's harrowed calmness as he let her cry it out on his shoulder, I eventually saw what it was that had probably drawn them both together all those years ago.

I tried to go back with Mom when she left, and I sat in the back of the car she hired from the airport. It wasn't until she passed the border of Forks and I rematerialized back in my bedroom that I discovered that I couldn't pass beyond the invisible boundary. For some reason I found myself stuck in the small town and the immediate area.

That was going to make watching over Mom pretty difficult, and it was difficult to accept that I had to let her go and fend for herself out there in the big wide world. It would be nice if she would visit again, or come and join me when her time was up.

The outpourings of affection from my fellow students at my funeral were touching. If I'd still had a physical heart, it would have wrenched at the words that were said and the rose-tinted recollections of my brief time here.

Even the Cullens came to my funeral-Edward, too, returned from wherever he'd been. Once or twice, I thought his blond-haired adoptive brother looked right in my direction, as if he sensed my presence. Something about this acknowledgement made me feel at peace with myself—calm even.

As the years passed, I began to feel as much a part of my new home as the tall, green trees and the constant rain. Forks was home to me—where my immortal soul belonged.

Whenever I got tired of haunting my room, or whatever car parked in my space in the parking lot, I developed a liking for hanging around at the Cullen house. I liked it, and not just because it was quite possibly the most awesome house I'd ever seen in my life…or my death. Something about it whispered that maybe I could have belonged there if things had been different.

At first, taking advantage of my ability to go wherever I wanted to felt like trespassing, but then boredom and curiosity got the better of me, and I decided that I wanted to discover the mystery behind the enigmatic Cullen family.

Boy, was I surprised when I discovered that they were vampires. Imagine that, and I never suspected a thing before I died.

I learned a great many other things by following them, and listening to them, in the place that they felt most able to be themselves. Though they couldn't see me, sometimes I felt as if they must have been aware of it on some unconscious level, as a head would turn sharply and look over a shoulder in my direction before turning away again.

Jasper, the tall, blond brother, was empathic, and he seemed to feel me whenever I had a particularly emotional moment. And apparently, Edward and Alice were psychic.

It took a while, thanks to their irritating habit of having one sided telepathic conversations, but I eventually found out that they saw me dead in advance of it happening.

I guessed that explained why Edward was so off with me that day in Biology. I'd find it pretty difficult to sit next to someone whose clock was ticking as loudly as mine obviously had been. Though it seemed that they'd envisaged my death at Edward's hands—or teeth—rather than Tyler Crowley's truck.

The sad fact of the matter was that death was stalking my every turn, just waiting for an opportunity to strike. Looking back, I learned to accept my supernaturally preserved state. Some things were just meant to be, I guess. I wasn't mad about it.

I thought Dad was pretty harsh on Tyler. It could have quite easily been me in that truck skidding across the parking lot. Visiting Tyler was hard—his part in my death hit him hard, and it became too difficult to watch him struggle through life with it weighing on him.

Edward beat himself up about not being there that day a lot, though I could never really see how that would have changed things. Resisting my apparently almost irresistible blood was some small consolation. He seemed really lonely and sad—I felt sorry for him. It must be hard being an immortal gooseberry.

Still, he had me to keep him company, even if he didn't realize that I was there. I liked to lie on the Cullens' sofa and listen to him play the piano—it was very soothing.

He dedicated a song to me a month or so after my funeral-Bella's Lullaby. It was sweet of him. In an alternative universe, in another life, I could have totally fallen for Edward Cullen.