Summary: Bella has just escaped from the grasp of a torturous relationship and she finds herself in the slums of Chicago. She's a shadow of who she used to be and has the anxiety to go with it. With some unexpected help from her atypical neighbors, she learns that hope can come from the craziest places.

While this is a story of hope and growth, there will be some dark scenes; however I don't feel it's necessary to go into too much detail. The Prologue is very detailed so that Bella's fear is made obvious. If you are sensitive to any kind of abuse, avoid this story.

Thanks Softragoo for your never-ending support and delicious bubbles. The pics. of jawporn don't hurt either. C'mon. Don't play dumb. You ALL know what I'm talking about...

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer is the genius who invented these characters. I'm a pitiful example of a fan with a worthless hobby and too much time.


Consign Me Not to Darkness

Prologue

The smell of mold and dirt filled my nose as I shut the door behind me, locking the loose bolt. The apartment was clearly falling to pieces before me and God knows what slithered inside the walls and through the cupboards. The floor was covered in stained tan carpet and the curtains—which had thankfully been left by the previous renter—were once white lace but had turned yellow from years of cigarette exposure.

I would need furniture, a mattress, and some cooking utensils—no big deal. There were plenty of second hand shops in Chicago which I would visit when my hands stopped shaking and my teeth quit chattering. What I needed now was a few days to let it all sink in; let my environment settle me into a routine of awareness before I ventured out into the city.

With concrete legs and flushed cheeks, I walked silently to the farthest corner of the room where I could watch the door. Using my fingers, I swiped at the empty cobwebs before plopping down on my bottom. The cold plaster against my back felt good. I dug a cheeseburger out of my bag and unwrapped it. I took in its clobbered appearance, wondering if that was how I looked. All pretty on paper but disgusting when my layers were peeled off.

"What am I gonna do?" I asked the burger, my nail-bitten fingers picking at the soggy bun.

The burger had no reply so I bit into it. Ketchup dribbled down my chin and onto my lap. It didn't matter. Ketchup was a relief considering it was usually blood that flowed down my chin, and onto my clothes.

After half the sandwich sat like a rock in my stomach, I threw it in the bag and stared at my new apartment. My first place. It had promise with its tiny cute kitchen and one person shower. It needed a good scrubbing but I wasn't one to shy away from bleach. Bleach and I were old friends. Two peas in a pod, bleach and me.

Money wasn't a problem since I'd had the money that my parents had given me for graduation. If I'd waited a week to leave, I would have had nothing so I seized the opportunity. Two days ago, I'd packed some clothes and anything that held any meaning for me—pictures, evidence of my degree, jewelry that had been given to me by my Mom—and walked out the door. After some tricky maneuvering on my part, I found myself at the ticket counter at a bus station in Missouri. At the bus depot, I found a map of the country and closed my eyes. With my finger, I blindly picked my destination which turned out to be Chicago. Chicago was as good as anywhere else—he'd never suspect it. Using my own identification and credit cards would be impossible.

Luckily, I had found the perfect landlord by way of a forgotten newspaper on a bench at the bus station. Arthur LIvingston was greedy and in debt up to his eyeballs. He allowed me to rent the place out with six months advanced payment plus double security deposits if it meant that I would never have to sign any papers or show him I.D.

"This is illegal, you know?" His second chin shook as he gasped for breath between steps. "You're not wanted for anything, right?"

I tried to keep a neutral but slightly shocked face as I shook my head.

He stared at me for a long time as he chewed on my proposition then he answered, "Okay, as long as the six grand is paid in cash, it's a deal. I just don't want any trouble."

My hand twitched because I had wanted to give him the Scout's honor as I promised, "No trouble from me, sir."

And I fully intended to keep that promise because any trouble that would happen in this building would come from someone else. Sure, I would possibly be the cause but it was out of my hands. I just had to be smart enough to make sure trouble didn't find me.

I would have to reserve the cleaning for tomorrow because the sun was setting. The dark had always unnerved me. I remember waking up in the dead of night when I was little, the shadows of the night producing images in my creative head: A man in the corner which turned out to be my jacket hung carelessly on the corner of my wardrobe, a three headed monster that sprung out of my rocker, noises from deep under my bed. Most nights, I'd stay calm and tuck myself into my bedspread, convinced that if I couldn't see them, they couldn't see me. However, other nights, when I'd toss and turn myself into an anxious oblivion, I'd scream for my father. At first, he'd run in and calm me down with pats of his hand to my hair but when he discovered that most of my screams were results of an overactive imagination, he'd stomp in with his shoulders slumped and explain reality to me. Eventually, he got me a night light which decreased my screams by half.

Now, the darkness held deeper, more sinister threats.

My first purchase for my new digs would be a lamp and some light bulbs for the overhead lights. No question.

But for tonight, I wouldn't sleep, couldn't sleep. The door needed to be watched because there was no way in hell I'd be taken by surprise. Surprise attacks were the worst: A punch in the gut as I lay down to sleep for the night or a slap in the face after I'd taken my first bite of dinner. The past few months had been easier because I'd began to understand the madness to his methods. Each punishment—except for the sexual variety—hadn't been random but a lesson learned. I had misbehaved, humiliated him, or forgot my manners so I had to be taught.

I remembered the nights of laying skin against skin with him. Sometimes, I'd plot it out in my head how I would get away from him, only to wake up the next morning with the usual contraptions around my wrists or my ankle. He was insane and sick and twisted in ways that I never knew existed. There were times when he'd look at me with soft eyes and a warm grin that made me wonder if he actually cared about me. But he didn't hesitate to force me to entertain his guests or cook some extravagant dinner within an hour of notice. He'd set me up to fail just so that he could inflict pain and humiliation. The warmth of his expression would fade into a maniacal and disturbing force of sick human nature. Predator versus Prey. It was what rocked his world.

In fact, he didn't seem to enjoy it if my screams stayed trapped in my throat so I learned to let them loose, laced with agony and submission. Although, there were times when he'd finish with me and apologize in a smooth voice, telling me that he hated to see me in pain. Then he'd grab me and hold onto me, as if he thought his embrace was the least bit comforting.

The worst part was that I moved with him. Willingly. I wasn't forced on that bus. My bags were packed by my own hand and I hugged my Dad with a smile on my face and a breaking heart. It wasn't what I wanted but it was the path my life had chosen at the time. So, so stupid…

The door to the front of the apartment building slammed shut and I held in a yelp. My cheeks were wet with unconscious tears and my hands were clasped around my knees, shaking. My back pressed eagerly against the cold plaster wall behind me. Heavy footsteps pounded down the hall and stopped at my door.

Oh, my God…Oh, my God…oh, my God…

I stayed silent, my fight or flight response causing my muscles to constrict in every inch of my body. When the shadow beneath the door disappeared, and the heavy footsteps continued, I let out a hushed sob and closed my eyes.

Then I snapped them back open. Just because the door wasn't broken down didn't mean that wasn't him. I took a deep breath as I mentally chastised myself for letting my guard down. It would be a long night if I let my emotions control me. I had to stay smart and balanced, just like him or I would never make it.

The sound of another door creaking open across the hall made me jump. Then a voice, female and young, broke the silence. I'd seen the girl's pale face peeking out at me from the crack of her open door. She was pale and her eyes curious.

"Hey, would you mind taking a look at my kitchen faucet? The fucker is leaking again."

Was it the landlord? Perhaps, he'd found me out and wanted to profit off of my situation. After all, I'd presented him with six thousand dollars in cash; I must have had more, right? I shook my head at myself, thinking that it would have been impossible for him to realize why I was here.

A male voice answered, too low and soft to belong to the Arthur Livingston. I couldn't make out what he said but the female wasn't too happy about it.

"It's been leaking all day! You told me that you'd come over tonight and fix it! The fucking thing is going to drip all night!"

The man must have been her neighbor. Immediately, I felt sorry for him because obviously this wasn't the first time he'd been hit up for a favor from this woman.

He murmured a muffled reply.

"Damn it!" she replied.

The sound of her door slamming forced a squeak out of me and my back hit the wall as I flinched. Pain from my battle scars shot up my spine and I cringed. Another door creaked open and clicked shut. Then silence. Dark, and disturbing silence.

I stared hard at the door, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. The grains of the wood almost looked like a face. Indentations of rough inhabitants and graffiti gave the face a hard look as if it were laughing evilly at me. As if it expected something bad to happen to me and it wouldn't do a thing to help me.

My hands turned into fists and I pulled my knees closer to my chest. It was June but the plaster on my back felt cold and my body ached from shivering. Sleep. All I wanted was a long night of uneventful, restful sleep. Tomorrow, maybe…

Fog covered over my thoughts as my eyelids grew heavy. I had been sitting there for hours, in the dark and watching the evil door grin at my misery. Nothing had happened but if something were to happen, it would come much later. My only coherent thought was a tug of war between "he knows where I am" and "there's no way he knows".

With all my strength zapped from my body, I let my eyelids close but my brain remained alert to every noise.

"Just for a moment," I thought to myself, "I just need to close my eyes for…"

The sound of the doorknob rattling made my head jerk up. Silence. Had I really heard it or was it something my brain had conjured up because I was so deathly afraid of that very sound? The brain is a magical and dangerous thing.

I sat for a moment, holding my breath and staring at the wicked grin of the ingrained wooden door. For several seconds nothing happened—just silence, save for my slow shaky exhales. Then three soft taps on my door made my heart pick up its pace; my stomach clenched and my skin suddenly felt too tight.

It happened again—three more soft taps; my first gut reaction was to hide somewhere, anywhere. A closet. A cupboard. Behind one of those ugly nicotine stained curtains. But my body sat frozen in that corner, too frightened to fight and willing to take the beating. I never had been one to hide.

My legs found strength from God knows where and I pushed my back against the wall, using it for balance as I slid into a standing position. Pain raked through my palms as my fingernails broke skin. My breaths came in short, soft pants. My body flinched as the sound of paper crumpling filled the room. I panicked, my body twisting internally with tension and my mind flashing through the hours of torment that I'd gone through the past nine months. The sound was coming from inside the room. My pupils ached as I widened my eyes on my surroundings: The kitchen, the hallway, the empty living room. Nothing.

I'd kill myself before I went back, I'd told myself. I'd drink bleach. Hang myself. Jump into Lake Michigan and never resurface. But I had no bleach, no rope and Lake Michigan was miles away.

Maybe I'd get lucky and he'd be so angry that he'd kill me, here and now. Perhaps, he'd brought his semi-automatic—the one he carries on his hip—and blow my brains out on this tan, stained carpet. I imagined my Dad getting a phone call; he'd wonder what I was doing in Chicago and why I hadn't called him. I envisioned him breaking down, falling to his knees at the loss of his only daughter to such an act of violence.

If he only knew that I'd be better off.

I clasped my hand over my mouth as I focused on the door. Something was blocking the hallway light from coming in through the crack between the wood and the carpet. There was something there; a piece of paper—a note that had been pushed into my apartment.

Forcing myself to take a deep breath, I stared at the unwelcomed inanimate visitor. It just sat there, under the wicked grin of the door, waiting to be read.

I'd wait until morning. I wouldn't be able to read it anyway, in the darkness of the apartment. There was still a chance that he had found me and this was part of his game. Watch stupid Bella take the bait.

I'd read in books that people have these out of body experiences. It wasn't that I didn't believe in them but I found the possibility very inconceivable. There were many times that I prayed to escape my physical form—not exactly wish for death, but pray for mercy to come take hold of me and transport my senses to some far away place where pain does not exist. Mercy never showed and the pain never relented.

But as I stood there, cowering in the dark, I found myself displaced. It was as if I was seeing myself for the first time and it frightened me more than anything. Somewhere between Seattle and Oklahoma, I had lost myself. When I lived in Washington, I spoke my mind and I had dreams. I didn't fear paper notes. I didn't shake at the slightest sound. He had broken my insides into pieces and tossed them carelessly out the window.

I was pathetic.

It dawned on me that he could be hundreds of miles away and his hand was still firmly grasped round my wrist; his fingers still misusing my body and his anger still ruling my actions.

With determination, I took a step…then two…then three…then I lost count as I focused on the note. I grabbed it up, and walked backward to my corner where it seemed warmer and safer and more comfortable. Mycorner.

The white paper was subconsciously crumpled in my hand when my rear hit the floor. I held it in front of me, wondering if I'd open it up and, with the help of the nearby streetlamp, read a big fat "Gotcha!" My hands shook as I unfolded the note once, then twice. I held it up to the window and I could barely make out the writing:

"Let me know if you're interested in babysitting,

Rose – Apt. 3"

I sighed and let a sob escape from my throat after I'd read it, and then I allowed myself to close my eyes.


A/N: Like I said, lots of angst but it gets lighter. I hope you'll join me on this insane adventure... :-)