A/N: Okay, so I have absolutely no business posting this considering I have two unfinished stories in the works but as most writers know once you get a plot bunny jumping around in your head, you need to get it out. So I am.
For those of you that have read my previous work, you will quickly realize that I have made a complete departure from my usual writing style (I may slip back into it at times...who knows.)
Fair warning, the characters may be OOC at times...that is completely intentional. The chapters will be written in both Bella's and Edward's POV. I will be letting you know at the beginning of each chapter which is which. This is an all human story.
Please drop me a review to let me know if you think it's good, bad or down right ugly.
And finally, the characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. I only take them out of their original pages to play with them for awhile.
Welcome to Phoenix
I remember the first time I saw that sign.
I was staring blankly out of the dusty window of our old Ford at the looming city rising from the brown of the desert.
"I have a really good feeling about this place, baby." Renee's smile was wide as she glanced over at me.
I fought the urge to roll my eyes.
It was her standard catch phrase for every town she dragged us to. I had stopped believing her after the first few times.
Her "good feelings" came with an expiration date.
I'm pretty sure Renee' was a bird in her past life considering the amount of times we packed up and moved around.
I was probably a turtle.
Renee' was struck with a wicked case of wanderlust; not exactly a becoming trait when you were a mother. But she was young, much younger than most of the mothers of girls I knew; which weren't that many anymore.
I stopped becoming close friends with people. We never stayed long enough in one place for it to be worth it. Even when I would visit my dad every summer before I turned thirteen, I didn't spend too much time with other kids my age. They seemed to all know each other from birth and I was the curious outsider whose dad was the chief of police in a town of less than 3,000 people.
Renee' left my dad and the rainy town of Forks, Washington with me in tow when I was only five. It seems we've been on the go ever since. What she was running to or running from, she never said and I don't think I ever asked.
Many people when they meet the two of us tell her she was too young to be the mother of a teenager.
No one ever said I was too young to be the mother of a thirty eight year old teenager.
But I was.
We were polar opposites in many ways. Where Renee was flighty, erratic and impulsive, I was logical, responsible and perceptive. She was an extrovert. I was an introvert. She spent money. I paid the bills. She wanted to be the child. I needed to be the parent. A shrink would have a field day with us.
I loved her despite all this.
She was my best friend.
She was my mom.
After a few months in Phoenix, I became more comfortable with the fact that maybe Renee would actually settle down. At least long enough for me to finish high school.
Which brings me to her job.
She found one working in the administrative offices of the very high school I would be going to. The pay wasn't great but the benefits were good. So she said.
We needed the health benefits. I suffered from a perpetual case of the clumsies which always seemed to land me in the E.R. more times than I can count. I was still under my dad's health plan but a backup always helped.
In an indirect way, this was how she met Phil.
She was waiting for me while I was being checked over for a sprain in my ankle. A sprain that was caused by the mundane act of shoe shopping. Renee thought I needed a pair of high heels. I protested with abject horror but gave in to her pleading looks and tried them on anyway. Yeah, that was a disaster.
Walking or should I say wobbling across the store, 'trying them out', I tripped over a stack of shoes boxes and down I went, my ankle twisting in the process.
Off to the E.R. again, greeted by name (they already knew who I was by now) and ushered into an examining room, Renee was left to fend for herself for a little while. Thinking back, I should have insisted she come with me.
Phil was a baseball player...or at least that was what he wanted to be. In reality he was the coach of one of the local high school baseball teams. He was still hoping to get a position in the minor leagues.
He did something to his "rotator cuff" (whatever that is) while demonstrating a pitch and was coming out of an examination cubicle when he literally bumped into Renee'
"Oh Bella. I really want you to like him. I think he may be 'the one' " Renee' had said with a sparkle in her eye.
I really wanted to like him too. And I did. At first.
Phil was a few years younger than my mom. At thirty five, he was good looking, physically fit and he seemed to like Renee a lot. But even back then I felt something was "off". He was a little too good to be true.
Their wedding was a twenty minute ceremony at the Justice of the Peace. I was the only witness. Which struck me as odd. Didn't Phil have any family or friends, he wanted to invite?
"What happened to the white dress you picked out?" I had asked Renee before the ceremony while she was getting ready when I noticed she was wearing peach. It made her look sallow. "You loved that dress."
A look of sad disappointment crossed her features before she gave me a reassuring smile.
"Phil picked this out." She said twirling around to show it off. "He said white wouldn't be appropriate since I was married before. Don't you like it?"
I wanted to tell her no but I was too stunned to form words. Who was this woman and where was my mother? Since when did she let anyone tell her what to wear or what to do?
Despite my previous reservations about Phil, this was the first time I felt something was seriously wrong.
"Um...it's great, Mom." I had finally said. It was a lie but who was I to ruin her impression? She looked happy and I wanted to be happy for her.
We moved in with Phil.
That's when things started to change...and not for the better.
Renee' and I had packed up all of our things into boxes. It didn't take too long. We had done it so many times before. We had a system and it worked.
The day after the move, I had come back to Phil's right from school, noting with curiosity the filled boxes sitting on the curb waiting for the garbage pick up. Upon closer inspection, I realized that many of the contents were items that Renee and I had picked up over the years from many of the places we lived.
"A visual diary of our many interesting travels" Renee liked to call them. They weren't valuable but they were sentimental. And some of them were mine; items I had personally placed in my new room.
Angrily, I took what I wanted to keep and in a fit of rebellion that was completely alien to me, I brought them back into the house.
"Isabella, what are you doing?"
I stiffened. Renee never called me Isabella. Never.
"Why are all of our things in the trash?" I asked her, ignoring her question.
"Don't be ridiculous." She had laughed nervously. "Not all of our things are in the trash. Just the silly stuff."
Silly? "But Mom, you love these things."
"Phil said it bothered him that I would keep memories of my life before him around. And...well I want to make him happy."
"What about my things? The stuff I wanted to keep."
"The same applies, Bella. He's your stepdad now and it is his house."
"Oh? So he can keep his silly shrine of old baseball trophies from his has-been days gone by but I can't keep a few knick knacks in my room?"
I surprised us both with my anger, I think.
"It's his house, Bella." She softly reminded me again but I heard determination in her tone. "Please," she pleaded. "I really want this to work."
It was then that I knew her loyalties had switched. Maybe I was acting like a spoiled brat but I never felt betrayal so sharp.
His personality changes were subtle at first. He would criticize her but in the nicest way possible...it was patronizing and condescending and you wouldn't even recognize it for what it was but like I said was perceptive and read in between the lines. I saw how everything he said chipped away at her self esteem, made her more emotionally dependent on him.
I hated it. I began to hate him.
From then on my mother, my free thinking, frivolous, beautiful, outspoken mother, became Phil's parrot. Every statement out of her mouth began with "Phil says", "Phil thinks", "Phil wants."
I mentioned it to her once over one of our many arguments on how Phil ran the house.
"You don't even see it. He is controlling you...us. And you let him." I accused her.
She, in return, accused me of being jealous and if I would just let him in, Phil could help guide me too.
Guide me? Was there a Phil cult I wasn't aware of?
I began to wonder if I really was jealous...resentful that someone else had taken the lead with Renee'. No. I wanted her to be happy. I wanted her to have someone else in her life that she could depend on and take care of her. I wouldn't feel so guilty then when I went away to college; which I had every intention of doing. But I did not want it like this...a slow acting cancer that was eating away everything that Renee was.
I wanted my mom back.
I never mentioned it again.
Maybe if I did, things wouldn't have turned out the way they did.
I considered calling my dad to go and live with him but that would mean Renee would be left alone with him. I couldn't do that.
So I stayed.
When I turned seventeen, Phil took us out to eat. He still hadn't stopped trying to get me under his control and I still hadn't stopped trying to let him know it was never going to happen. I was bitter and didn't try to hide it anymore. Renee would say I was being deliberately defiant.
He ordered for both me and my mother claiming he knew what was good to eat here.
My mother appreciated it. I resented it.
"You know what?" I told the waitress as she was about to walk away with Phil's order. "I think I'll order the penne ala vodka instead."
The waitress walked away with a smile and a nod, crossing off the order of shrimp scampi that Phil recited to her.
Renee' sucked in a breath. My eyes shifted to Phil whose mouth was set into a grim line. I knew he was grinding his teeth.
"I don't trust seafood in a city that's so far from the ocean." I explained to him before turning to my mom with a forced grin. "Remember, the great crawfish we had in New Orleans?" I asked her.
"Oh yes." Renee's eyes brightened in mirth. "I didn't want to eat it at first but it was sooo good. Messy though."
Bella-one, Phil-zero. I had so foolishly patted myself in the back. I gave Phil a satisfied smirk.
His fingers tightly clenched around his silverware. He was seething.
I felt victorious. And a little frightened. Had I pushed him too far? Would Renee pay the price?
"I suppose you regret leaving there then, if you had so much fun." Phil bit out through gritted teeth sounding like a petulant child.
Renee's smile faded. "N...no...of...of course not." She stammered. "I am happy here...with you"
I almost vomited in my mouth as she sought to reassure him.
My sense of victory deflated quickly under Phil's knowing smirk. He was letting me know that he had the ultimate control and I had none and of course Renee remained oblivious.
Disgusted with everything, I began to spend more and more time away from the house. Phil couldn't say a word about where I spent my time. After all who would complain about a student spending time in a library?
It became my second home. It never occurred to me that I didn't have a first one.
Within the quiet aisles upon aisles of books, I found solace.
Within the pages of the classics, I found escape.
Over the long dark wooden tables, I was also asked on my first date ever.
Brandon was cute in a bookish sort of way with glasses and a neat hair cut. He was shy and unassuming.
He was the complete opposite of Phil.
Had I known it would have been the catalyst for disaster, I would have refused.
We went out to the movies. A cheesy rom-com. I don't recall the name anymore.
There was no spark between us but it got me away from Phil on a Friday night.
It was late when I got home. After a quick peck on the cheek, I went inside the dark house.
I shut the front door as quietly as possible.
I jumped when the lamp in the living room came on to reveal Phil sitting there with the scariest expression I had ever seen in my life.
He got up slowly from the sofa and walked towards me.
I backed away.
"Where's my mom?" I asked.
"She's sleeping." His eyes darted towards the stair case.
"I think I'll go up to bed too." I told him wanting to get away from him as quickly as possible.
He grabbed my arm before I could run up the stairs. His eyes dragging over my body, lingering on my plaid skirt and tight blouse.
I felt dirty.
"Not so fast. I want to talk to you first."
"I'm tired." I told him trying to wrench my arm from his grasp but he tightened his grip. "Let me go. What is wrong with you?"
He shook his head. "Little Isabella...always so defiant. I tried to raise you the right way. I really did."
Raise me? What the fuck?
"What the hell are you talking about?"
I had been petrified. Phil was lost in his own little world.
"I bet you let him touch you...let his fingers roam all over you. And you liked it...you little whore."
I wasn't that naive that I didn't know lust when I saw it. It mingled with the anger but it was there and it was aimed at me.
"If you do not let me go right now, I will scream."
"And let your mother be punished for your actions?" He shook his head again. "I call your bluff."
I shrunk back, curling into myself despite his painful hold on my arm.
He was right. I wouldn't scream. Not if it meant Renee would be hurt.
"I've been wanting to put you in your place for a long time." He said menacingly with bared teeth.
But I would be damned if I didn't fight him every step of the way.
His intentions were clear.
So was my resolve.
I drew my foot up and scraped it hard down his shin.
Exactly how Charlie had taught me.
"You little bitch!" He roared letting go of me.
I ran only to have his hand grip my hair pulling me back so I landed hard on the ground. Thrashing, I kicked my foot out. It hit the end table sending the lamp crashing onto the floor and plummeting us into darkness.
The stairway light came on. Footsteps scurried fast down the stairs.
"What was that noise?"
"Mom, go back upstairs." I shouted before she could see what was happening.
It was too late. Her eyes took on the scene before her in horror; me on the ground, Phil's hand in my hair, his body hovering over mine.
"Phil! What are you doing? Get away from my daughter!"
Renee had finally woken up...literally.
"Go back to bed Renee." He ordered. I have to teach this little slut of yours a lesson. She's been allowed to run rampant for way too long."
Realizing what was happening...what was going to happen, she screamed in rage hurling herself the rest of the way down the stairs and attached himself to his back with a roar.
He flung her off him like she was nothing but a fly sending her flying back onto the broken glass of the lamp. I scrambled up and jumped on him, ripping at his hair, trying to gouge at his face with my blunt nails.
Throwing me over his head like I weighed nothing, I landed head first into the wall.
I remembered nothing after that.
Except for the screams.
They would haunt me until the day I died.
The sound of incessant beeping woke me up. I pried my eyes open to see the ravaged tearstained face of my father watching me.
"Oh thank God, Bells. I thought I lost you too."
Too? It took a moment for my hazy brain to register the meaning. Then I had remembered.
Oh God, the screaming.
I sank back into nothingness.
When I opened my eyes once again, Charlie was still there.
"Mom is dead isn't she?" My voice was hoarse, cracking with grief.
Charlie nodded. "I'm so sorry, Bella."
A look of savage anger crossed his features.
What did he mean by gone?
I struggled to sit up and failed. The pain was too great.
"No." He sounded defeated. "Just gone."
Escaped. He meant escaped.
As I was told later on and from what I heard from the local news that I managed to sneak regardless of Charlie's attempts to keep me in a media blackout, I found out a concerned neighbor had called the cops when she heard the screams.
When they had broken through the doors of the house they walked into a virtual blood bath. Renee was savagely murdered, I was left for dead with multiple stab wounds and Phil was just gone. The police had no leads.
Charlie told me I died once. It was on the way to the hospital before he was even aware what had happened. He was profoundly grateful they were able to bring me back.
Would I have been sent to heaven or hell?
The police questioned me a day after I woke up. Turns out I had been in a coma.
Charlie stayed in the room for that; stopping them when the heart monitors began to go crazy.
They heard enough anyway.
Charlie became quieter after that; mumbling to himself words I didn't understand; sending pitying looks my way. Still, I kept waiting for when he would turn his accusing eyes on me, point his finger and blame me.
He never did.
I think he blamed himself.
He was so wrong.
The only memories I had of that night looked like time frozen photograph stills under a strobe light and the screams that played in a constant loop.
I always heard the screams.
I didn't know if they were mine or Renee's.
Maybe they were both.
I briefly wondered if Charlie could hear them too. Then I remembered he wasn't there.
The hospital appointed therapist during my physical recovery explained that the temporary dissociative amnesia was my body's self defense mechanism, a mental shield against the horrors that had happened. It was completely normal and I would remember when I was ready to.
Would I ever be ready to recall that?