Disclaimer: Steph owns. I'm sure she's just thrilled about it.

Warning: This piece openly discusses sensitive material. Know your limits.

Notes: Even when she doesn't beta I'm obligated to thank solareclipses. As always, she set a due date for this that I could just meet and so had to attempt. Damn/bless her.

Title: Firebrand
Bella, Mystery Character
Summary: He rode off into the sunset with some other Beauty, and you think he took all yours with him, but you're wrong. It's still there. I see it. I want it.

"Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?"
—Anne Frank

Look at you. You're so pretty.

Pretty, pretty girl with her hair all a-twirl

Actually, no.

Pretty, pretty girl with her hair all a-tangled.

Yes, that. Gossamer skin and ragged waves snarled like deep forest branches, twisting to form a crown—you're a Grimm's fairy tale princess.

Little lost Rapunzel with heart ever-so mangled.

I can see your heart in your eyes; it beats and you wince. It stutters and your vision skips, passes right over me to stare across the cafeteria at that table. Hesat there.

Then he left.

Never more beautiful than when desperate and sharp-angled.

I know it hurts. He rode off into the sunset with some other Beauty, and you think he took all yours with him, but you're wrong. It's still there. I see it. I want it.


I'm nothing in your eyes, though, right? I'm a piece of brick that makes up the walls in your tunnel vision—just peripheral.

It's okay. I admire you for not pretending otherwise, for not bullshitting anyone. You tell it like it is: you have no interest in any of us, and you hate yourself. I see it.

We have that in common, you know—the hating part. We both want to die.

It came as no surprise when they found her all a-strangled.

You're so pretty.

You've become a rumor.

Did you hear about Edward and Bella?

You had to get a tattoo of his name removed. He dumped you for being frigid. Or maybe you gave it up, got pregnant. He left you after the abortion.

But those are just the appetizers. Break-ups are a nickel a dozen here; even one involving a Cullen only keeps the public's interest for so long.

But you . . .

Did I tell you about Bella Swan?

The Chief had to lock up all of his guns after he found one under your bed.

Your mom wants to institutionalize you. She's cutting off all contact until you agree to get help.

Your terror rings out through the night, keeps neighbors up, and everyone knows it's just a matter of time before you stop waking. Before he drags you down through your dreams.

You'll be feeding the gossip mill for years to come.

I play with these thoughts during classes, roll them up and down the paths of my mind and hope they're true. It's not that I want you to die. I'm not a horrible person.

I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. Believe me, Bella.

It's just that I like to think someone like you could understand me.

And when I hear about the monsters that have crawled out from under your bed and into your soul, I'm hopeful. You've felt the heavy pinch of talons around your heart when you tried to give it away; it's not really yours anymore, is it? You know it as I do.

I don't scream; I cry. It's my father who hates me. I'd go for pills, not the gun, but I'm just not brave like you. I'm ready to die, but to stand up each day as you do and face our peers? To live as a rumor, a concept of a person? I couldn't.

But you . . .

Bella Swan?

She was a rumor at first, a wraith that fluttered amongst us and bore our judgement with quiet humility, but then she got hold of a gun.

And she became a legend.


The pencil's hot between my palms, and I might burn myself with the friction, but I spin it harder, faster, drilling the tip into the surface of my desk.

Her? You choose to talk to her?

I almost cried when you first called her name, when you forced her to confront the inspiration for all those lies she's been telling.

"I really need a girls' night out," you say, and she's examining her nails—they're fake, a stick-on French manicure bought at the drugstore.

She's fake, and it's rubbing off on you. Flakes of all the fake, sprinkling through your conversation. You're talking about needing to get out, about friends. A movie, maybe? You're smiling.

You don't want to smile. You want to wail, to scream.

Scream, damn you!

Faster, faster, faster.
Harder, harder, harder.

The pencil's lead snaps.

"Why are you asking me?" She has no sense of appreciation.

Still, it's a damn good question, Jessica.

You speak at the lunch table—about giant bears, no less.

Who the fuck cares about bears, Bella? Don't waste your words like that.

Something's going on. With the words and the smiles and the dreamy little gazes that look forward instead of back.

I thought you knew, but if not, then get it through your head: we don't have futures.

My name! You said my name!

It's a new vice-grip that seizes my chest, a demon that casts aside the dull, ineffective use of its claws to sink teeth into me, and the burn of it carries me home from school.

I waltz right past Daddy-dearest and the glass of scotch and the aura of pretension.

Past Mom and her rolling pin and flour-caked dress and that haunting, humming melody which means he's upset her.

Past everything and anything and into my room and down, down, down under the blankets of my bed.

Where we can be alone.

It's not the first time, but I've never been able to imagine your voice quite so clearly. The way your tongue caresses each syllable, goes high on the vowels and almost chokes on the consonants. You pant back when I gasp, and it's hot, heavy wonder.

Now's the time for your words, and you babble, but endearingly—never annoying—and I'm laid flat out, taut and dying.

So pretty so pretty so pretty.
See you. Want you. Love you.

When everything snaps I can't hold back, and Dad hears me, calls me filthy. Says something else about "fucking dykes."

I don't listen, though; I'm still drowning in your words to me.

"Hey, Katie, could I borrow your trig notes?"

La Push, Bella?

It's weird. There's nothing out there, and all these visits to the reservation are costing me in gas money.

Plus, there's that boy. But I don't want to talk about him.

(Who is he,
who is he,

Is this about Eric? Because I can dump him easily enough; he keeps giving me opportunity. Like today at lunch when he demanded we discuss our relationship in front of the whole table. Who does that? It's so . . . pretentious.

And to say to me "you've changed."


"You used to smile. I miss it, Katie, that's all. I wish you'd let me in. I feel like I don't know you anymore."

No, he just never knew me. Maybe I did seem "happier" last year, but I just put on a better front at school; home's always home. Even after I took Eric to my house to show my parents—like a new piece of jewelry: seehow it suits me?—I was still disappointment-daughter. They know I'm pretending for them, and the effort isn't enough, apparently.

I like to daydream about your meeting them. They'd scowl.

And you'd tell them to fuck off.

Wouldn't that just be glorious?

You're not at school today.

Did you relapse, a bad nightmare? Or is this it?

It's okay if this is it.

(No, no, no. I'm not ready.)

But I expected a clearer sign. How soon do I follow?

I'm carrying the pills in my backpack. They're like a delicious secret between us, and if you did make the final leap, I figure they'll inform the student body tomorrow.

I will be ready.

Jacob is friends with Embry who works with Megan who's sleeping with Scott who's the cousin of Lauren. They all told on you.






Look at you.

You're disgusting.

With clothes picked out for you by his sister and big, pathetic eyes that track him around the room, can you be anything other than his? You're Edward and Bella again; feel free to legally change your name.

I didn't expect the anger, the urge to shake some sense into you, but I think I would but for your keeper. He's with you 24/7, and the challenge in his eyes isn't any sort of dare. It's predatory, a warning.

Trust me: I know it to see it.

And I won't meet my end at his hands. The last thing that boy needs is any more power.

I don't know what you've gotten yourself mixed up in, but I miss you. The quiet fire. The fuck-all attitude.

The revolution of Bella.

For fuck's sake, your boyfriend can't even let me die in peace. Is he this annoying with you?

"Hey, Katie," he greets me on the day of, and I'm not surprised he knows my name. You do, after all.


"How are you this afternoon?"

Did you send him to check up on me, Bella? Because whatever this is, I don't accept. I don't need an apology.

You'll all be sorry enough tomorrow when I'm gone.

"Fine, thanks," I say into the hollow of my locker. I don't want to look at him; I think I'd growl.

"That's wonderful. Listen, I was just supposed to pass on a greeting from Jasper. He wondered how you've been faring in his absence," he comments, and oh, I could kill him.

He has you. He has Jasper.

Just leave me the fuck alone.

What message would your boyfriend like to pass on, Bella? That Jasper used to smile at me even when I could see he was having a bad day, used to nod in greeting in the hallway, used to acknowledge my existence? And I guess that's all that was keeping me together, because when it (he) was gone, so was my calm. I was left with this: this turmoil, this fury, this sometimes staunch apathy.

No, I don't really think the two are connected; like I said: even when I was smiling at school home was still hell. But it kills me that I've lost this as a sanctuary, too.

"Well," I tell Edward, "you can pass along that I'm just fine, thanks. And I hope college is going well for him. Now I really have to go."

"I'll walk you out," he says, and I contemplate hitting him. I might hurt myself, but does that really matter when you have my sort of after-dinner plans?

"Great. Thanks."

He follows me out of the school, and his eyes are on me, like right on methe whole time. It's unnerving, and I'm not sure how you deal with it constantly.

You're at the doors leading out into the parking lot, and good, you can have him back. But I don't know whether you take his hand or not, because all I can see is Jasper.

This is some sort of practical joke. He's standing by an obviously expensive car, hugging Alice for all she's worth, and she's glad to see him home for the weekend.

Good for her.

I'm walking to my car, one foot after the other, and I can feel the monster's claws squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, the pain roaring through my chest cavity, and screw waiting until after dinner. And you were right, screw the pills. I'm going to go home and find Dad's gun and—


He catches up with me before I get to my car, and when I don't turn around, he ducks in front of me, and I have to meet his eyes—so calm and deep and willing to sooth the hurt away.

And I'm smiling.

But I don't want to smile. I want to scream.

Many LGBT youth don't have Jasper Cullen to mindfuck them into getting through high school. Think about supporting them. It's pretty easy.

1.) Don't be an asshole.

2.) www [dot] itgetsbetter [dot] org