I reached over and scrubbed at a scuff mark that had mysteriously appeared on the toe of my new steel gray Converse sneakers. It wasn't that big a deal, I just needed something to do in between trying to show my mother how irritated I was that she was talking on the phone, and waiting to get our little kumbaya moment over with so that I could get on with my day.

"I'm gonna go," I warned her as I gestured toward the door.

She totally would have been my hero in that moment if she'd have flipped me off and told me to park my ass right where I was. But no, Ms. Renee Swan, the professional people pleaser, would never do anything like that. Instead, she merely frowned and held up her hand for me to wait a minute. I think she even managed to scrutinize her manicure in the process.

I didn't try to mask the venom in my sigh as I threw myself back down in the chair. Normally, when I found myself hauled into my mother's bargain-decorated at-home-office, it was because I'd done something to warrant her incessant need to understand the motivation behind my actions. Her words, not mine.

That's basically my mother in a nutshell: always trying to understand. She thought it was her lot in life to take some dirty little stain on society, polish it off, give it a fancy name and make it socially acceptable enough that it wasn't considered an issue at all.

No, my mother isn't one of those trash-to-treasure people you see on public access television that travel all over the world trying to turn garage sale fodder into million dollar paychecks. She's a psychiatrist – a certified mental health physician; which is kind of funny: she's certified to tell people they're certifiable.

It's actually the perfect job for her…and for me.

My mother earned her doctorate from the University of Washington when I was three years old. It was, and still is, an amazing feat: medical school with a baby. My mother made a lot of sacrifices to get where she is today, and if you ask her, it still isn't where she wants to be.

One of the many sacrifices she made was the amount of time she spent with me. Not that she likes to talk about it, but my first word was "Bubba". That was the name of the cat that belonged to the lady who used to live next door to our apartment when I was just a kid. My mother used to pawn me off on her whenever she needed to study – which was all the time. Needless to say, Bubba and I were so well acquainted that I was five years old before I found out that he wasn't my cat.

When I was nine years old, my mother got her first official job at the Children's Hospital in Seattle. My grandma came with us so that she could take care of me while my mother worked a trillion hours a day for what seemed like an eternity. In reality, it was only two years. Grandma was cool and all, but she'd had my mother when she was forty. Add twenty-seven years to that, and it becomes obvious why Grandma wasn't the most attentive, or observant babysitter.

This is usually the part of my history where people ask where my father was during all of this. I usually answer that my mother and I were wondering the same damn thing. Sometimes I just say my mom had a sperm donor, because truthfully, that's all he was.

And we didn't need him. Mom, Grandma and I got along fine. My mom worked, Grandma napped, and I hung around Juan and Josh, who lived three floors down in our high-rise apartment building.

Juan was only a year older than me, and his mother worked for Josh's parents during the week. Over the summer, Juan came to work with his mother every day, which facilitated our camaraderie.

Josh was three years older than me and got a thrill out of jumping out of corners, doorways and stairwells when I least expected it. He said my whole body turned red and he thought it was funny. In my very matter-of-fact nine-year-old voice I told him that he couldn't know that, because he couldn't see my whole body through my clothes.

From that day forward, he became very interested in finding out if I did, in fact, blush over my entire body.

Two years later he found out that I didn't.

But by the time research revealed that I only blushed down to about my collarbone,

adolescent developments were well underway on other areas of my body, and my budding breasts rapidly captured Josh's attention away from my crimson skin.

Juan was still captivated with throwing water balloons off the balcony when Josh and I began to sneak down to the first floor maintenance room to play peek-a-boo with my tits.

At first, that was the thrill for me: sneaking around. It was like a game of cloak and dagger as Josh and I would outwit the security cameras and adeptly procure a keycard to open the constantly locked door. But then, once we got behind closed doors, Josh stopped looking. And started touching.

"What does that feel like?" he'd ask as he'd swipe the tip of his finger against my barely-there nipples.

"I don't know," I'd answer, not yet able to articulate the feelings of the tremors and tingles.

Since I didn't have much to see, Josh would lose interest quickly, and we'd sneak out in the same fashion we'd entered and rush off to join in on whatever Juan was doing to occupy his time.

On my twelfth birthday, my mother was at a conference in Dubai and my grandmother had the flu. This meant that I had a lot of free, unsupervised time on my hands. Josh showed up to see if I had any cake; at the age of fifteen, his stomach was a bottomless pit.

After polishing off the donut holes that served as my birthday treat, Josh and I didn't bother sneaking off to the janitors' room; we just went to my bedroom.

"So you didn't get anything for your birthday?" he asked incredulously as he flipped through a small stack of CDs that lay on my bookshelf.

"Not yet," I answered. It always annoyed me when people called attention to the way I was shortchanged. I could harp about it all the live-long day, but I didn't want anyone else to highlight it. "My mom will be back this weekend and I'll get my presents then."

"Oh," Josh said. The way he was watching me shifted suddenly. "Your tits are getting big, Bella."

"Shut up," I told him. But I really didn't mind. Every girl in my class had sprouted breasts and we were well aware of how the guys "rated" our varying sizes. It was nice to hear that I was moving up on the growth chart.

"No, I'm serious," Josh said as he walked toward me. "They're nice."

His hands went under my shirt as if they belonged there, and he began to palm and squeeze my breasts.

He also gave me my first kiss that night. It was wet and sloppy and uncoordinated.

I loved it.

Josh came back the next afternoon and he brought a CD from his own collection. He told me that he wanted me to listen to it because it was one of his favorite bands. I told him alright, but knew that we had to be quiet because my grandma was napping.

We sat on the floor of my room listening to the unimpressive music. After about three versus into the first song, Josh turned to me with an empathetic look on his face.

"I feel kind of bad that you didn't do anything special on your birthday," he said.

"It wasn't that bad," I told him.

He moved over to me and kissed me again. "But somebody should make you feel special on your special day."

I shrugged. I was going to say I didn't care, but he was kissing me.

"I want to make you feel special," he lowered his voice. "Can I make you feel special?"

"Okay." Because what else do you say to that?

"Lay on your back," he guided me.

I did what he said, but I had a dress on, so I kept stretching it down over my knees, even though it was only a knee-length dress.

Josh really looked like he knew what he was doing as he rubbed his hands up and down my legs. He kept pushing the skirt of my dress up higher and higher, and finally I just quit fighting him.

He started rubbing me over my underwear. I couldn't stop giggling. And then, just like he'd done when he'd felt me up the first time, he asked, "What does that feel like?"

"I don't know," I answered, embarrassed to be trying to carry on a conversation when his hand was on such a personal area.

"Does it feel good?" he whispered.

"Yeah," I answered; humiliated.

"I can make it feel better." In the next instant, his hands were inside of my underwear and his fingers were on me; rolling and pinching and stroking my skin.

The sensation scared me and I pushed him away and pulled down my skirt.

But the next time we were together, it didn't take long for my body to crave what it had only recently been introduced to.

Soon, we stopped making pretenses about what we would do when we were together. We no longer tried to cover our desires with made up excuses to visit one another's homes. I'd show up at his house, or he'd show up at mine, we'd go straight to the closet in our bedrooms, and start our below the belt explorations.

By this time, Juan's urges had surfaced, and he started accompanying us on our sordid trysts, though he was more interested in seeing me naked than having me get him off. This worked out well, as Josh began to have me touch him, instead of reciprocating for my enjoyment.

Four months before my thirteenth birthday, my mother opened the door of my bedroom closet to find me lying on my back with my legs wide open, Josh's finger inserted as deep as it would go, Juan's hands on my tits and each of my hands wrapped around a teenaged cock.

My mother put in for a job transfer the following week and two months later, we moved to Kirkland so my mother could take a job at Fairfax Hospital.

We only spoke once about "the incident", as my mother liked to call it. She said that it was my way of telling her that she left me alone to often; that I was acting out of sheer need for closeness and companionship from my mother. She promised that things would be different in Kirkland. She wouldn't have to work as many hours and she'd make sure our time together was a priority.

Those mother-daughter date nights lasted all of three months before an article my mother had written for a local medical journal started getting notoriety. Speaking engagements and teaching opportunities started coming out of the woodwork, and though my mother claimed to love merely working with her clients, without all the extra fuss, she was flattered. It didn't take long before that flattery turned into a desire for recognition.

She took one speaking assignment, which turned into another. Next thing I know, she was gone the equivalent of one week out of every month.

But this time, she didn't leave me to my own devices. Swimming, dance, art, soccer, softball…you name it, I was signed up for it.

It was too bad that she'd spent so much time studying in high school and college that she didn't realize that athletes threw the best parties. I met so many people when we lived in Kirkland that my social calendar was filled to the brim. My mother was so blinded by her achievements that she quit questioning the ludicrous cover stories that I threw at her, such as overnight soccer tournaments outside of the normal soccer season.

I lost my virginity, for the first time, in Kirkland. I was fifteen and in the back of an old Chevy Bronco while my friend Lauren was getting finger banged by her boyfriend in the front seat.

The second time I led a boy to believe he'd claimed my virtue, I was almost sixteen. On the rebound from being dumped by the finger-banger, Lauren convinced me to go to a kegger she'd heard about from some college guys down at the rec center.

"You totally look like you're, like, nineteen or something," Lauren expressed after I'd raided my mother's makeup drawer and donned a pair of her heels.

"Cool," I said, the giggle accompanying my words completely negating Lauren's previous statement.

The party turned out to be much larger than either I, or Lauren, had anticipated. This enabled us to get lost in the crowd, and by the time the alcohol was freely flowing, I had already set my sights on getting my kicks for the night.

"Hey," a nice-looking jock-type greeted me as he came and sat next to me on the porch. "The party's inside. What are you doing out here?"

"Just relaxing," I said as I strategically crossed my legs so that my skirt would ride up and show my bare thigh.

"Oh? It's too rowdy in there for ya, eh?" he thumbed back toward the party.

"Not really," I said coquettishly. "I was just trying to unwind a bit. I had a lot of tests this week." I knew almost nothing about college, except that college students were always talking about tests.

"Yeah? Well what do you like to do to unwind?"

I didn't even have to answer with words. I just looked at him and smirked, and before I knew it, I was upstairs in somebody's room with a guy's massive hands in my crotch playing me like a fiddle.

"Mmm…you're so tight…you're so tight…"


"Bella. That's such an awesome name."

I rolled my eyes at his attempt to placate me. I had maneuvered this moment, not the other way around.

He mumbled that his name was Tyler and when I reached into his pants and pulled out the most enormous cock that I'd seen thus far, I didn't give a damn that we were only on a first name basis.

As Lauren and I left the party that night, I overheard him tell his friend that he'd popped my cherry.


I'm sure the fact that I didn't even glance back at him, or ask for his number, deflated his ego just a bit.

By this time, sex had become like a drug to me. And just like with any other addiction, the more I got, the more I wanted.

High school gossip spread like wildfire, and before long I wore an invisible label that had my phone ringing off the hook. My mother was proud, thinking I was the high school "it" girl that was going to be asked to prom by the quarterback.

I'd had the quarterback and he wasn't all that.

I'd also had the president of the chess club, and call him a geek if you want, but that guy could fuck! And he was polite, which didn't hurt.

At first, I told myself that I was alienated because the other girls were jealous. Even Lauren stopped hanging out with me. She said she wasn't going to stand by and watch me self-destruct, but I suspect she was worried that her latest crush had a crush on me.

He didn't.

He just liked the way I said his name when he made me cum.

If Lauren stuck around for me to reason with her, I would have asked her one simple question: Was it my fault that I was willing to do things the other girls weren't? I knew what I wanted and I went for it. I have needs. Sue me.

Ironically, it was me that was able to sue – the school district – after the girls basketball team jumped me in the locker room after P.E. one day; all because Heather Ryan had heard from Jennifer Pierce that I'd slept with Brady Bennett after the Homecoming Dance.

I didn't even know that motherfucker.

After that, my mom pulled me out of that school and filed legal action. Unfortunately, an investigation revealed some of my "extra-curricular activities" in a rather demeaning light and my mother decided we needed a heart-to-heart right then and there, in my guidance counselor's office.

This time it was my father's fault. His absence caused me to seek out intimate relationships with the opposite sex to try and fill that void. However, my fear of being abandoned prevented me from committing to anything beyond physical gratification.

Whatever. What if I just like having sex?

But that's not acceptable to my mother. No, it is imperative that she take the dirty, little societal stain, that in this case is me, and make it socially acceptable.

"A hypersexual disorder. It is something you have, not something you are."

Kill me. Now.

My mother is racking up the frequent flyer miles as she moves us, yet again, to get me away from "bad influences". This time, she takes a job part time at a clinic in Port Angeles and another part time position at the hospital in Forks, Washington. The setup actually looked great on a map, but when we actually arrived in Forks to find out how far it really was from Port Angeles, my mother decided to set up an office out of our house.

But not before she secured regular counseling sessions for me in a place that even the devil himself wouldn't visit.

Forks, Washington was a ghost town. No mall. No movie theater. No major university. How was I supposed to meet people? I would have asked my mother this question if I didn't already believe that keeping me isolated from the general public was her exact plan.

Good luck with that. I was a junior that year, and though Forks appeared to have been left back a few generations, they still had a high school.

"Now, Bella," my mother began as she sauntered into my bedroom two nights before I was to start my junior year at Forks High, "I hope you realize the opportunity you have here…in starting over…where no one has made up vicious lies about you or ascribed to you any particular category. It's yours to invent. You can be anyone you want."

It was the third time I'd heard this speech since she'd caught me in the closet with Josh and Juan. And I wanted to ask her why she kept saying I could be anyone I wanted, when I obviously wanted to be that person that got her groove on on a regular basis. Wasn't it obvious that my choice had been made?

I wanted to say that, but I didn't.

Perhaps it was the marginally hopeful look on her face that kept my tongue at bay. Perhaps it was the fact that I had overheard her talking to one of her doctor friends about me, and she was saying that she didn't know what she would do if this move didn't make a difference and that she didn't know how to help me anymore.

Perhaps it was the realization that to my mother, I was the epitome of her failure. Here she was trying to make a name for herself as someone gifted in helping troubled children, and she couldn't even keep her own daughter off her back.

Those were my words, not hers.

She'd say that she couldn't get me to stop encasing my identity or empowerment in my sexuality. Which…why is that a bad thing? I took American history and I happen to know for a fact that that is exactly what we were lauding the bra-burning hippies for doing. I am woman, hear me roar!

But I didn't say any of that either.

I knew my mother couldn't handle the truth. The truth being that I simply enjoyed sex; a lot. I didn't use it to make me feel powerful. I didn't use it to make me feel beautiful. I didn't use it to get the attention of guys who wouldn't look twice at me otherwise.

I wasn't that girl. I knew who I was and where I fell on the looks-ometer. Sure, I wasn't a Betty Bombshell, but I wasn't a Fugly Frieda either. I was just an average looking, brown-haired, brown-eyed girl who liked to get off, plain and simple. I had an urge to satisfy, and that's what I did.

Guys did it all the time. No one ever made them explain why they wanted sex so much. It was just accepted that their libido ruled their conscious minds 99.9% of the time.

And it wasn't like I was as undiscerning with it as most boys my age. I had rules that I lived by and regardless of how badly I needed to get my kicks, I never:

Hooked up with a friend's boyfriend

Had sex with guys I was repulsed by

Let a guy videotape sex

Cheated on my boyfriends

Had sex while drunk (what was the point? I wanted to feel it)

Fucked around with married guys

Fucked around with guys old enough to date my mom

Had unprotected sex; I wanted to live to fuck another day, thankyouverymuch

But again, none of that was anything my mother wanted to know, nor did I want to tell her. We had an open relationship, but not that open.

Still, I felt bad about how defeated she looked, so I agreed to go to counseling and she agreed that if I was able to modify my behavior, she'd buy me a car. She insisted it wasn't a bribe, just a positive reinforcement for more responsible conduct.

She could call it whatever she wanted, but I really wanted that car. Therefore, I knew exactly where the Forks juvenile psych outreach program was housed before I knew the location of the nearest Dairy Queen.

After meeting with my counselor, Sheila Rehnquist, on three separate occasions, she gave me the aforementioned quote, and my diagnosis, about having a hypersexual disorder, but not being a hypersexual.

I didn't hold that against her.

Sheila Rehnquist could probably get a pretty high paying job if she worked in the city. She was an awesome counselor, and I liked her immediately. She wore her curly-kinky hair shorn close to her head, and the African-inspired dresses she wore made her look like she was merely passing through on her way to something better.

And she didn't put up with my bullshit at all.

"Life is a much more fulfilling, enriching experience when we learn to do things in moderation, Bella," she told me one day when I adamantly expressed that there was nothing wrong with enjoying sex.

"It's not like eating or getting drunk," I said as I rolled my eyes. "I'm not gonna get fat from having too much sex. In fact, one could argue that I might actually lose a few pounds."

"What if you get pregnant?" Sheila asked.

"What if I step off the curb and get hit by a bus?" I countered. You didn't get to where I was without having defended the pregnancy argument two hundred times too many.

"The odds of that happening are much lower than the odds of you becoming pregnant, or contracting a life-altering illness."

"Sheila," I leaned forward, "level with me. Is there anything really wrong with a girl who has sex on a regular basis? I know about safe sex. I'm on the pill. I use condoms when I'm with guys I don't know that well…"

"Why are you having sex with guys you don't know that well?" Sheila interrupted.

"Because I want to?" I queried, even though we both knew I wasn't really questioning my stance.

"I hear what you're saying, Bella, I do," Sheila nodded at me. She even wore a slight smile on her face. "But what you're trying to convince me of just doesn't fit your situation."

"Which is?" I decided to be humored by this woman who thought she knew me better than I knew myself.

"You want me to believe that you can fulfill your desire for sex without any consequences to anything else in your life."

"I can."

"Is that why you have no female companionship, Bella? Or why, despite your test scores, you're enrolled in low-level courses, which you managed to fail two of last semester."

"Girls are jealous and I don't like school," I shrugged.

"What about your inability to feel anything deeper than a physical pull toward your sexual partners?"

"Guys do it all the time," I scoffed.

"No, they don't; not all guys. And I'm not talking about guys, Bella. I'm talking about you. I'm talking about your inability to be emotionally vulnerable enough with the opposite sex to allow a relationship with your whole person, and not just your body."

"Why would I want that?"

Sheila pointed at me like I'd solved my own crime. "And that's why I'm not convinced, Bella," she said. "Because the correct question is why wouldn't you want that?"

I could tell when Sheila thought we were close to making some sort of breakthrough about something or other, because she'd get out of her chair and dance around the room, gesturing wildly. I liked when she did that because she'd go off on some talking tangent and all I had to do was pretend to listen and hardly speak.

On those days, the hour would fly by.

By Thanksgiving, I had a new Honda Civic and a boyfriend I'd managed to stay interested in for longer than a month. At first, he was almost as horny as I was and we had sex every day, sometimes twice.

Things were going well and my mother even stopped bugging me about how much time Mike and I spent at the house when she wasn't there. I pulled my grades up in my government class and I even managed to pass P.E. for the first time since seventh grade.

But then Mike had to go and ruin it by trying to get me to go out on "group dates" with his friends from the football team. It didn't take long before I resented him and his cronies for wasting the time that could have been spent with Mike's face between my legs instead of sitting around a table of plastic sycophants who giggled and squealed over a bunch of boys who were way more impressed with themselves than they should have been.

And yes, I am well aware that the average high school junior does not refer to the other girls in her class as sycophants, but that word was on my PSATs and I figured it'd be easier to remember some of those words if I started incorporating them into my daily vocabulary.

Right before Christmas, Mike started trying to get me to go to church with his family. I told him only if we could make out in the confessional.

He broke up with me four days later.

I was a little disheartened about the interruption to my normal routine. I had gotten used to being able to count on Mike to "scratch that itch" and when he was gone, the idea of starting all over again only brought half of the thrill it usually did.

My mother mistook this disappointment for a true broken heart, and she was all too thrilled to bust out the ice cream and chick flick movies. And though my mom said the purpose of the movie was to provoke the tears I needed to shed, it only served as a reminder of the fact that I'd probably never feel like those girls on the television. That immediately made me feel better.

Thanks, Mom.

Two months later, Mike had found a new girlfriend and I was accepting applications for my next conquest. After Mike, I wasn't in a rush to jump into another relationship. I just wanted to find a good lay – and that wasn't a simple task when your applicant pool was a high school in Forks.

I told Sheila about the breakup and she thought that breaking up over differing spiritual beliefs showed that I was making progress. I didn't bother to tell her that it was my comment about committing a cardinal sin, inside the church no less, which sealed the relationship's fate. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

By the time spring break arrived, I was going stir crazy with not having any physical attention. I tried taking matters into my own hands, and when that wasn't gratifying, I even ordered a dildo online. That managed to take the edge off, but it wasn't the same. I needed contact. I needed heavy breathing. I needed sultry words.

And I blame that throbbing need for my temporary lack in good judgment.

I'd finished up most of the core work in my classes, so I didn't have any major assignments to work on over spring break, yet I still accepted to attend a "study group" with three members of the varsity baseball team the Friday before my vacation began. It was a poorly concealed grope session at the very least, but as I said, lack of good judgment and all.

The smell of marijuana was so potent in Jeff Knight's basement, where we were supposed to study, that I nearly got a contact high upon entry.

"Hey, Bella," a boy named Kevin said as he sneered at me.

Kevin's father served on the school board, which is the only reason Kevin was still on the baseball team with his 1.7 GPA; further reiteration that there wasn't going to be much studying going on.

We pretended to watch some old movie that was playing in the background, but when Jeff , our high school's prized pitcher, leaned over and put his arm around my shoulders, the rest of the guys moved into position.

"You smell good, Swan," Jeff whispered into my ear. He reminded me of Josh from all those years ago, and I couldn't help but laugh at how this seventeen-year-old guy's pickup line hadn't evolved much from that of a fourteen-year-old's.

The guys thought I was doing that horror-film-bimbo laugh, though, and they started pawing at me with no shame.

Jeff started kissing me and I learned that the things written about him on the walls of the girls' first floor washroom were true. He was a great kisser.

While he had my mouth occupied, Kevin pulled up my shirt and started sucking on my tits. I put my hand in his hair to encourage him to keep it up. That shit felt good.

And then Brian, who had been content up until that point to watch from across the room, walked over and dropped to his knees in front of where I sat on the couch. He put his hands down the front of my jeans and rubbed blindly until Jeff told me to take my pants off.

"Let's see that pussy, Swan," he said.

"Let's see that dick, Jeff," I matched him.

He wasted no time in hopping up on his knees and straddling me on the couch. "You asked for it," he teased. And then he stuck his dick in my mouth like it was something he thought I hadn't experienced before.

I'm sure he changed his mind after about 0.08 seconds. I was a master at giving head.

Kevin, now boobie-blocked, moved down to my pussy. I was happy to feel that he was just fingering me, because with Jeff's mediocre dick in my mouth, I couldn't actually tell him to wrap that shit up if he was gonna fuck me.

I figured Brian had had his fill of rubbing my clit and was only waiting for Jeff to pull out so that he could move in.

I wasn't really a fan of the whole group activity thing, but it had been a long time since I'd felt that good, and even though I refused to swallow anything those boys were offering, culinary or otherwise, we were all pretty satisfied in the end. Even Brian, who hadn't wanted anything past seeing how many of his fingers he could stick up my vag.

It took a full forty-eight hours before the pictures hit Facebook and another twelve before one of the moms from the Parent-Teacher Organization called my mother to give her a "head's up".

I think that was the day that I finally broke my mother, even though that wasn't at all what I was trying to do.

I willingly turned in my car and my cell phone and didn't balk too much at the latest prison sentence that was imposed upon me.

"It's degrading, Bella!" my mother ranted. "That you would let those boys do that to you…and film it!"

Somehow I didn't think it would help matters if I told her I didn't actually know they were taking pictures. So I kept that tidbit about my rules to myself once again.

The school agreed to let me complete the rest of the year via independent study if my mother didn't attempt to implicate the school in a legal battle. Apparently the pictures were taken with a camera that belonged to the school's yearbook department.

"This is a small community," my mother said, still complaining three weeks later. "And next year is your senior year. That's supposed to be your crowning year of school, Bella; and now you'll be starting all over…again."

"I don't have to," I said indifferently. "I didn't do anything wrong. They can't kick me out," I said.

"Bella, you are not going back to Forks High School, and that is that," my mother all but screamed.

Oh yeah. This time, I was the bad influence.

But it wasn't a decision that had to be made right then and there, since I had the entire summer to get through, so I let the issue drop. I focused my attention on finishing up my coursework for the year and staying out of my mother's way whenever I possibly could. It was morbidly humiliating knowing that she'd seen a picture of me giving head.

So when she suggested I increase my counseling sessions to three times a week as part of my "intensive therapy", I was all too happy to get that extra time out of the house.

Sheila didn't freak out about the pictures like my mother had – which was refreshing. She also didn't try to see them.

She did, however, freak me out.

"Bella, your mother has expressed an interest in exploring a more…medical route in regards to your expeditious behavior," Sheila sighed. "And at this point, I can't disagree with her."

"A medical route?" I had seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and that shit ain't happening.

"It is possible to manage your… libido with the aid of medication-"

"I'm not gonna be drugged!" I yelled as I jumped out of my chair. "I've seen what happens to kids who take that stuff. They're like sleepwalkers!"

"That's not true, Bella. You'll still be you, you just won't,"

"Be me," I concluded.

We reached an impasse then, because although Sheila knew she didn't need my permission to suggest treatment, it was also highly unlikely that I'd swallow something I didn't want to take. And seeing as how a teenaged sex addict was a gray area among medical professionals, I probably wasn't a candidate for involuntary committal either.

I noticed how exhausted Sheila looked when she took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes. I'd started hearing a lot of office information now that my sessions had increased and I was around so frequently. The word on everyone's lips was that the clinic was losing money. Two of the counselors on staff had to move on to a larger clinic in Seattle, which meant that Sheila and one other staffer had had to take over their caseload. I also knew a little bit about this because my mother had offered to take on some of their cases, only she insisted on calling them clients.

But my mother was busy, too, and she wasn't able to offer the kind of services the clinic really needed, which was one-on-one and peer group meetings.

My sessions with Sheila started to suffer a bit. At the beginning of summer, I'd show up only to wait twenty minutes to a half hour while Sheila finished up some of the teen alcohol or substance abuse meetings. By midsummer, she started pulling me into some of these group therapy sessions with girls who suffered from various image disorders. I sat in abysmal boredom as a girl who looked like a walking skeleton admitted that she heard a brownie calling her name the previous night. I wanted to tell her to just eat the damn brownie, but I didn't want to be accused of being insensitive.

In late July, Sheila didn't even bother splitting us up by anything other than gender. I sat in a small circle of pathological liars, kleptomaniacs, self-mutilators and recovering drug and alcohol addicts. I think I was the only "hypersexual", unless the liar was lying. We never labeled ourselves though, just discussed our struggles for the week.

There was a waifish, pale girl with dark hair that spiked every which way in the back and hung down to cover her eyes in the front; I didn't know her name because she put on a different nametag every time she came. She and I were the only ones that never said anything.

The next time I showed up, Sheila eyed me nervously as I entered the room. After a quick glance, I saw that it was because there were three guys present in the room. At least I think it was three guys. There was a set of twins with 1950s crew cuts that looked to be about twelve years old, and a thin and lanky brooder with artificially jet black hair sitting slightly away from everyone else. He kept his head down, and his hair covered his facial features so I couldn't really tell if he was male or female. Regardless, I had standards, and these freaks didn't meet any of them, so Sheila didn't need to fret.

I think she figured that out when she saw that I didn't offer anyone more than a cursory glance.

The next week was a difficult one for me. My mother had another one of her articles published and she was all excited about going to Stanford to speak at a conference, but then I heard her on the phone turning it down because she felt like she couldn't trust me to stay on my own, not even for one day.

The guilt I felt from that was unexpected and it prompted me to do something that shocked even me.

I spoke in the next group session.

I didn't say much. I just said that I felt guilty for what my mother perceived to be a lack of self-control, and how it was limiting her career advancement.

"Your word choices are interesting," Sheila told me. "Your mother perceives you to have a lack of self-control, but you don't agree?"

"I don't agree that I can't make up my mind not to…do certain things," I hedged. "Like, if she had to go out of town this week, it wouldn't be that difficult not to have company over while she was gone or not to go out."

"Did you tell her this?"

I nodded. "Yeah, but she doesn't trust me. Which sucks."

"Do you feel like you've given her ample opportunity to trust you but she just hasn't made the attempt?"

I thought over my answer. I hadn't asked for my car back…but I had driven it without permission one afternoon when she'd had to go to Port Angeles for an appointment. I had also had sex, but I was pretty sure she didn't know about that. Tyler was at the gas station that day I pulled in to get gas and we started talking. He asked me if I wanted to get high, which, in my book, meant we'd be doing some other things as well.

"I don't know," I finally said. Sheila saw through me. I guess I hadn't really given my mother any reason to trust me.

I looked over to find the waifish girl eyeing me with contempt, like I'd broken our unspoken pact of silence.

I also noticed that the dark-haired freak in the corner had shifted his head so that he could see me. His eyes were green…and he had acne on his chin.

Definitely a guy, but definitely not my type.

Now, the blonde, blue-eyed, curly-haired, dimpled sack of man-meat that joined our group at the beginning of August was definitely my type. When I looked over and saw that the nervous expression on Sheila's face had returned, I couldn't help but agree that it was rightfully present.

I didn't even have a chance to find out what his name was. Sheila didn't give him a nametag and she hung on every word he said and cut him off often.

He was an over-sharer.

Despite Sheila's blocking maneuvers, I was able to determine that he went to school somewhere in the local area, and he was still in high school, because he spoke of starting his senior year and being recruited by a university if he played well in the fall. He didn't say what he played, though, and I had every intention of asking him once the session dismissed, but Sheila had waylaid me until my mother showed up to claim me.

"What the hell is this?" my mother asked as she waved at the quickly disbanding group before her.

"This," Sheila mocked her gesture, "is what cutbacks and staff vacations look like," she explained. "I've been running on a skeleton crew all summer, Renee."

"Sheila, you know the issues," my mother whispered the last word as if I couldn't figure out she was talking about me. "I mean, co-ed? Really?"

"Well what am I supposed to do? The grant clearly stipulates the number of sessions I'm to provide in the summer. It's not like I can give the money back for non-compliance. And one of these kids' dads is on the Board at the hospital. He'll know if I cancel," Sheila pled her case.

"I am sure there are provisions in the contract for that," Mom argued. "Because this is unacceptable. These kids should not be mixed like this. It's dangerous."

"Renee, I'm right here. What's going to happen?"

I didn't hear my mother's response to that. I was too busy trying to crane my neck to see which way curly, blonde-haired, blue-eyes had gone.

So basically, that is the summation of how I came to find myself held hostage in my mother's office while she tracked down the grantor for the clinic's funding. I'm kind of miffed that my mom might get Sheila in trouble, but I know that she feels that if she's going to sacrifice a speaking engagement in Stanford, then Sheila can stand to make a few sacrifices to prevent me from being introduced to fuck-hot guys who might want to know if I honestly come by my reputation.

Those are my words, not hers.

"No, no! You are not going to put me on hold again!" My mother hissed as she rose from her seat. "Damnit, you listen to me!" She walked out of the room as if she had to protect my delicate ears from her swear words.


"Mom, I'm not gonna sit here all day," I called, as if she was paying me any attention. I draped my now scuff-free sneaker across the top of her desk and accidently kicked over a bottle of water that was sitting there.

"Shit!" I squeaked as I quickly jumped up. My mother's desk was covered with manila file folders, and I knew the consequences if I wrecked any of them.

I swiftly righted the topsy-turvy bottle and pulled out a handful of Kleenex to mop up the spill, which didn't end up being that disastrous. As I soaked up the water, I noticed that the top two files on my mother's desk referenced the Forks Juvenile Psych Project. There was a picture peeking out of one of the folders, so I quickly pulled it out for further inspection.

It was the pale, waifish girl from my group. I opened her folder to assign a name to her instead of 'pale waif girl'.

Alice Brandon. Actually, it was Mary Alice, but Alice was written with quotation marks around it, denoting that she preferred to be addressed that way.

And then the light bulb went on.

"C'mon, blue eyes," I muttered to myself as I quickly shuffled through the folders. "Are you in here?"

"…and I'm not suggesting you free them from the confines of their requirements. I'm just saying that at the time that grant was given, it was to supplement state funds, and now those funds have been cut."

My mother's voice was much closer to the office than I anticipated, and I hastily stacked the folders together and raced to sit back down in my previous seat.

"Well that is a load of bullshit, and you know it!" She was moving away again.

With as much grace and speed as I could again manage, I leaned over my mother's desk and picked up the eight files that were color-coded with the marking for Forks.

My fingers were shaking as I worked feverishly against the sound of my mother's voice rising and falling in the background. I was working so fast that I managed to pick up two files at the same time.

A stray photo fell onto the desk.

"It's him!" I squealed. Blue-eyes himself was staring up at me. "What's his name, what's his name?" I rushed, knowing my time was limited. I looked at the two files I was holding trying to determine which one belonged to the lovely blue eyes.

Carey Fitch or Edward Cullen.

Carey is a girl's name.

"Edward Cullen," I sighed. It had kind of a nice ring to it. But with dimples like that, his name could have been Sue and I wouldn't have cared.

"Yeah, okay, Ben…Yeah. I know. As it is, I don't even have time to go through the files that I got from Sheila. If you guys are able to bring on an additional counselor…Yeah…Well great…" My mother's call was winding down, and I could hear her headed my way.

At record speed, I tried to read as much detail on Edward as I could find.

Birth date: June 20, 1993. Hmm…we're almost the same age.

I scanned over the vitals… this said he had auburn hair. Sometimes red hair lightens to blonde, doesn't it?

I didn't have time to look over his eye color and such. I wanted to know if he was local.

"Here we go…" I opened a folder marked 'transcripts'.

Lincoln High School in Port Angeles, WA.


And if that little tidbit of information didn't cause a plan to formulate, the scribbling of a doctor's hand on a Clallam County Court document did.

"Sexual deviant…excessive hypersexual disorder…"

And suddenly my mother's ranting and raving was kicked into context. I had been sitting in the same room with my perfect match and I hadn't even known it.


I wonder if my mother knew she was giving me a warning call as she walked back to her office.

"Bella, honey, sorry about that. I didn't mean to make you sit here while I dealt with that, but I just had to get that sorted out." She sat back down behind her desk and shoved aside the folders I had been going though only moments before. "Anyway, I hope you don't mind that Sheila told me that you shared in group today. She didn't tell me what you said," my mom quickly admitted. "But I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate the effort you've been putting forth."

"Um…okay," I stammered. Bring on the guilt. "So, um…Mom. I've been thinking about what you said, about me not going to Forks my senior year."

"Yeah?" my mom broached. She looked like she was well out of steam for another argument on that subject.

"I think I agree with you. I've been doing some research on the topic, and I think I might want to try Lincoln High in Port Angeles. What do you think?"

My mom stared at me for so long without saying anything that I was sure she was on to me. She'd probably already memorized Edward's case file and knew that I had figured out who he was.

But then a large smile erupted onto her face right before she launched herself across the desk and pulled me into a hug.

"I think that's a great idea!" she cried as she hugged me. "Oh Bella, this time it's going to be different. You just wait and see."

That is the plan, Mother. That is the plan.