Entry for "Bella's Insane" Contest
Genre: Horror
Word Count: 7,317
Rating: M



by Lissa Bryan


I see him now.

Even in the low light of the bar, I can see the red glints in his hair. I see a flash of his brilliant white teeth as he smiles at the girl who sits with him at the little round table. Her ankle is hooked over the stretcher between the legs of her bar stool and it's the coy innocence of that gesture that makes my mind up.

I stride through the room, sexy, confident, beautiful. I can do that now. God knows, I paid enough for this beauty, which came from the tip of a surgeon's scalpel and not from nature.

I stop at the table as though on a whim. I smile at him, a slowly growing smile as I look him over. I lean on the table, which makes the most of my low-cut dress. He looks startled at first, and it throws me off track for a moment, because he seems surprised that a woman like me would show interest in him. Perhaps he's not the predator I assumed. But the moment passes quickly and that cocky smirk returns.

"Wanna dance?" I purr.

"He's with me," the girl says. She glares at me.

"That's too bad," I say, and turn as though to leave, and flip my hair over my shoulder. It's blonde, this time.

I already know how this scene will play out and I feel so sorry for her, for the pain she will feel. She will hate me. As she weeps into her pillow, she will bitterly hope that someone breaks my heart as hers was broken. She can't know that it's already happened. She can't know that I'm doing it for her now, to spare her a far greater pain in the future.

I toss my head and smile wickedly as I walk away, winding slowly between the tables. That smile tells him I'm a sure thing. He has only to reach out his hand and pluck the ripe fruit from the tree to savor the sweet taste of sin.

I can hear them arguing, even over the din of the pounding music. He is picking a fight with her. The girl reacts in hurt, in outrage, as he accuses her of smothering him with her irrational jealousy and her inability to trust, for which she should probably seek therapy. She doesn't see the smug smirk he casts at her retreating back as she leaps up from the table in tears. No doubt, he's expecting she'll forgive him tomorrow; she might even be the one to apologize. The girl storms out of the bar, her cell phone in hand. She's dialing as she heads for the door, calling a friend for a ride or for much-needed support. She shoots me a look of burning hate, full of disgust for creatures like me. I accept it. She doesn't understand. She probably never will.

"Hey," he says as he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around me. I rock my hips back to rub my bottom against his pelvis in time to the low, throbbing beat of the music. I lift my arms up to twine around his neck. He is caught in my nets. "What's your name?" he whispers into my ear.

"Does it matter?" I challenge.

He chuckles. "I suppose not."

One song blends into another. Our bodies familiarize themselves with teasing brushes, gyrating rubs. Mine makes promises, for I am lithe and limber, my muscles sleekly toned. I'll be the best you've ever had, it says. I turn and see the dazed, hot light in his eyes. They're brown, not amber.

"You want to get out of here?" I ask, as though I don't already know the answer.

He pounces on the invitation eagerly and follows me through the club. He puts an arm around my back and lays a hand possessively on my hip. In the parking lot, I lead him to my car. I unlock the passenger door first and open it for him. My car is small, clean, nondescript. He sits down and doesn't even remark on the plastic seat cover or the paper floor mat. I watch carefully to see what he touches, but he touches nothing inside the car but me.

He complains about the length of the drive. I don't bother laughing or saying something suggestive about it being worth it make sure he stays on the hook. It's not necessary.

I turn down the dirt road. It's long and bumpy and it gets rougher every year because no one maintains it. My headlights flash over the trees when the car bounces in the ruts, turning them white for a second against the darkness, like twisted bones. He's getting a little nervous, judging by the way he fidgets. His hands have returned to his own lap and he twists his fingers. He says something about me living in the boondocks, but he's impressed by the house when he sees it, standing tall and majestic behind the six elderly cedars that shade the yard with their generous limbs. The deep porch hides the door in shadow. It may trouble him that there are no lights on inside, but it's not enough to distract him from the way my thighs splay wide when I climb out of the car.

He hurriedly exits the car and follows me through the front door into the house. The space beyond is vast, illuminated only by the moonlight which filters through the glass wall at the back. The river behind the house sparkles like diamonds tossed on black velvet.

His arms go around me and they are now his arms, the arms for which my body has hungered all of these long years. The lips that touch mine are the ones I've longed to taste, but the tang of beer that clings to his tongue throws me out of the illusion and back into my rage. I shove him, hard, and he falls down to the floor. He presses his hands down to push himself back up and finds the light-toned wood covered with a thick sheet of plastic and I can see his eyes go wide. In the faint glow of the moonlight, his face is almost as pale as his. He scrambles to his feet, but there is no escape now.

The movers missed a magnetic knife rack on the wall in the kitchen. They're perfect for tasks such as this, forged from one solid piece of stainless steel, no cracks or grooves for traces of DNA to hide in, easily cleaned by an overnight soak in a bucket of bleach. The blades are long, as sharp as the day they were made, and sturdy enough to do the job without breaking. Human skin is tougher than one might suspect and hitting a bone can easily break the tip off of a flimsy blade.

The plastic slides easily over the smooth wood floor when I pull, and then over the dew-kissed grass of the lawn. The movers also missed a shovel in the tool shed, next to this roll of plastic sheeting which I have put to such good use. It's as though they intentionally left me what I would need.

I automatically reach up to brush back my hair as I dig, but my fingers find only skin. He pulled my wig off as he fell. I remember that now. His look of surprise was comical. He seemed more surprised by the wig than he was by the knife that twisted under his breastbone.

It's late by the time I finish, another dark seed planted in my garden. I wipe down the passenger door with bleach-water before I settle behind the wheel for the drive home. The plastic and paper are gone from the passenger side of the car. I don't remember removing it. I'm losing more and more memories of details like these. That's probably how they'll catch me.

I drive home to my apartment, humming along to the radio. It's pitch black when I enter, but I don't bother turning on the lights because I need not fear tripping over something. The only room that is furnished is the living room, and I only did that because it could be seen from the door, though the only people who knock are Girl Scouts selling cookies, or earnest-faced young people selling religion.

I don't like cookies and I already have a religion, and in it, I'm the savior.

Jacob Black asked me to marry him two years after he left. At that point, I don't know whether it was out of pity, or if he still thought he had feelings for me. I said no. I liked Jake. I wasn't going to drag him down with me.

Maybe he was fooled, like my father, into thinking I was back to "normal." I practiced smiling in the mirror. I went to school and returned home with excellent report cards. I went to the movies. I laughed at jokes. But more importantly, I learned to hide the hallucinations, though every year, they got worse. At first, it was just him, chiding me when I put myself in danger, and I did a lot of reckless things in that first year just to try to feel something. Then there were others. Some days, they're my constant companions.

I graduated with honors, but I didn't go off to college as expected. Charlie had a heart attack that year that justified my staying home. When he died, six months later, I sold the house and was glad to see it go. It was a torment to stay in a room in which he had been, where I still saw him sometimes and endured that horrible moment again and again when I thought it was real and he had returned to me. Back then, the housing market was still strong and the house sold for far more than I would have expected. I was also the beneficiary of Charlie's surprisingly large life insurance policy. It paid for my surgeries and I still have enough left over that I'll be able to afford my apartment for a few more years.

I still work part-time at the camping goods store, part of my efforts to appear "normal". Last month, Mrs. Newton took it upon herself to try to talk to me about my future. I nodded gravely and pretended to listen. It's not like I could tell her I don't have one.

I feel that itch again. It's been almost a month. The rage is rising inside me, consuming my thoughts until I can't focus on anything else. My hands tremble with it.

I go to the hall closet where my other clothes hang, the ones that Alice bought for me back when she thought of me as her new living doll, to clothe and groom to her own tastes. I intended to burn them after they left, but now I'm glad I kept them. I even learned how to apply makeup with a deft hand. My surgeries weren't so dramatic as to be noticeable when I wear my plain, baggy everyday clothes with a bare face. Nature's flaws had been corrected, my face made symmetrical, my weak chin and slightly pug nose corrected and my bust enhanced. Made up, wearing an auburn wig that falls in loose ringlets around my shoulders, blue contacts and a silver halter dress, no one would believe I am the plain girl who fades into the walls at Newton's. I know this as a fact, because one of the girls I once saved came into the store and we chatted pleasantly for fifteen minutes or so while her new boyfriend shopped for water purifiers. She didn't recognize me.

I study myself in the mirror. The dress tells me - as if I didn't already know - that Alice never knew me, never cared to know me. Bella Swan would never have worn this dress, nor the pair of high-heeled strappy sandals I don. But I'm not Bella Swan any more. That girl died alone, in the woods, shortly after my eighteenth birthday.

I am Death, and Death wears Christian Louboutins.

I never hunt at home. I watch the papers closely but they have never connected the disappearances. Still, I am careful not to visit the same city twice in a row, no matter how much time has passed. Since I went to Port Angeles last time, I have to range farther afield. Seattle is my destination. I won't have to drive back to the Cullen mansion with my catch because I found the perfect place last time I was here. I prefer to do it at the Cullen home, where it's fitting, but the important part is saving the girls, not the symbolism.

I choose a club and stride right past the line of waiting patrons. I don't even have to pause as the bouncer unhooks the rope to let me pass, as though I'm a celebrity. It's my beauty and confidence. I've learned that if you act like you don't expect to be stopped, you likely won't be.

I pay the cover charge and perch myself on a bar stool. I order a Coke. Alcohol and my hallucinations don't blend well. The bartender puts it in a short glass with a swizzle stick, like it's a real drink, and I appreciate the courtesy. I tip him five bucks.

I sip it while I scan the patrons. I'm looking for that smirk, the one that says he believes he can do anything and this woman will still come running when he calls. I'm looking for that roving eye, which always searches for a trade-up. I'm looking for the "bad boy" that every woman thinks she is special enough to tame.

I see him now.

He's at a table with a girl and two other young men. He has white-blond hair and a Nordic cast to his features and he treats the girl beside him with offhand indifference while he laughs and chats with his friends. She's struggling not to cry. She lifts her hand and the diamond in her engagement ring catches the light.

He'll be cheating on her before the ink on his marriage license is even dry, if he isn't already.

Hate burns in my gut. I touch my thigh, where a knife is strapped. It gives me the strength to do what I must, to catch his eye, to smile as though we shared a naughty secret. I rise from my bar stool and stroll toward the restrooms in the back. He'll follow. They always do. There's an exit back there, too, and I intend to convince him to follow me through it, to my car that's parked on the periphery of the lot.

Shock makes the floor drop away as someone steps into my path.

It can't be. It has to be one of my hallucinations. I sway on my feet and he reaches out to steady me. His cold fingers on the bare flesh of my arms ... that's when I know it's horribly, terribly real. My heartbeat accelerates. My traitorous body still longs for his, even if my heart and mind have shut him out.

"Don't touch me," I snarl. I try to step around him but he moves to block me.

"Bella, please, I need to talk to you."

I've imagined this moment so many times. Once, I dreamed that he would come back to me. He would beg me for forgiveness and tell me he made a mistake. And once, I would have eagerly forgiven him, just like the poor girls I save, who are so hungry for love that they will sacrifice their own self-worth to keep even the illusion of it.

Later, I imagined revenge. He would see me with a new boyfriend and I would pretend I didn't recognize him, or I would say words that would blister and cut and break him down as he had broken me. The balance of power would have shifted. He would be the one to long for what he couldn't have and I would be the one to say cold words and walk away as he pleaded.

But now, faced with the reality, I feel nothing but weariness. I don't hate him any more. They say that the opposite of love is hate, but it's not. It's indifference. I simply don't care enough any more to hate him. "I have nothing to say to you but leave me alone."

"Bella, please, just hear me out."

I turn away. He said it would be as though he never existed, so I take him at his word.

The Nordic man gets a reprieve. Another broken heart to blame on him. I head out the back door toward my car. Why am I not surprised to see him there already, waiting for me?

"You've changed," he says.

He hasn't. He's exactly as he was on the day he broke my heart and mind seven years ago, and he'll still be the same seven lifetimes from now. He still wears shades of beige and his hair is still an uncontrollable mess that manages to add to his attractiveness, rather than detract.

I don't speak to him. I was telling the truth when I told him I had nothing to say to him. As much as I had loved him once - madly, consumed, with every atom of my being - there is no going back. I slide inside my car and back out of the parking space. My headlights flash over his white face as I pull away. I know he will probably beat me back to my apartment. I consider staying at a hotel here in Seattle, but that wouldn't help. He would track my scent like a bloodhound. He won't give up until he's had his say.

I wonder how much he knows, if he has been back to the mansion.

"Keep driving, Bells," my dad urges from the back seat. "Head someplace sunny that they won't follow." But when I look back at him in the rearview mirror, he has become my first, rotted and mangled. He reaches a hand toward me. Bones poke through the flesh like fingers through threadbare gloves. I remind myself that they can't touch me and he vanishes, just like that.

My first. The only one of them that I regret, not because he didn't deserve it - he did - but because I did such an awkward, botched job of it that he suffered more than necessary, and if he hadn't fallen down the stairs and broken his leg, he might have succeeded in getting away. I was much better with the second, and by the third, I had a systematic method.

I don't see him when I pull into my apartment's parking lot. Maybe he decided it wasn't worth it. I hope so. I trot up the stairs and down the hall to my door. He's not there, either. I let out a sigh of relief. I unlock my door and shut it behind me quickly and engage the chain, though I know it's silly to think a little metal chain thinner than my finger would stop someone who can pick up a car and throw it as easily as a basketball. If he wants in, he'll come in and I can't stop him. I flip the light switch by the door and discover that he's already here.

He's seated on the sofa. He stands, looking uncharacteristically indecisive. It gives him an air of vulnerability I never saw in him when we dated. It's quite an act.

I stride past him, through the little hallway and into my bathroom. There, I unbuckle the knife and put it in the cabinet below the sink, strip off my dress and wig and step into the shower. The hot water beats against my face, washing away the makeup and the few tears that I can't hold back. I'm crying for the girl I once was, that girl who died, all alone, in the woods. When they brought me back to the house, nearly catatonic with pain, Charlie was sure I'd been assaulted and he'd sent the doctor up to my room to examine me. The doctor reported that I was still a virgin - I still am, actually - but Charlie was convinced that something horrifying had happened to me out there. I know it ate at him that he could never get me to talk about it.

I remember when I decided to do this, when I first began to make my plans. It wasn't long after I'd declined Jacob's proposal. I had stopped at a restaurant to pick up some takeout for dinner and I heard a laugh that I thought was his. It wasn't. The man to whom it belonged was flirting with a beautiful waitress. As I watched, his female companion returned to the table, presumably from a trip to the ladies' room, and the man slipped a napkin with his number on it under the table into the waitress's hand. The girl, sitting across from him, engrossed in her menu, had no idea that he was planning to stomp on her heart. After the waitress left, he took his companion's hands and kissed the backs of them, and gazed into her eyes so adoringly that I questioned what my own eyes had just shown me.

And that's when it hit me. He was just like him, able to fool a girl who was desperate to believe it with just a little false sincerity, charm, and telling that girl what she wanted to hear. I knew what it was like. Part of me had always wondered why a gorgeous, perfect creature like him would love an ordinary, unremarkable girl like myself and the simple answer was that he didn't. He never had. He pretended. He'd played with my heart for his own amusement and then dropped it like a broken toy when he was bored. The rage built until I felt I would go mad from it, and then it occurred to me what I should do, what I must do. I couldn't save myself. I was already broken and ruined, but I could save other girls from suffering the same fate.

But first, I had to become beautiful and perfect myself, to become bait for the trap.

It was still my face which I saw in the foggy mirror, though it was no longer framed by my brown locks. No eyebrows, no eyelashes. No body hair at all, actually. That had to be sacrificed on the altar of forensic evidence. I was a police chief's daughter. I knew how to avoid the evidence pitfalls which brought down most criminals. No hairs left at the crime scene, no fingerprints (I had burned them off one by one and now the pad of each finger was covered in soft, featureless, pink scar tissue), no flakes of skin because I scrubbed and exfoliated vigorously. None of theirs in my car, either, thanks to the plastic. I had to be careful, I knew that if my dark garden was ever discovered, it wouldn't be investigated by Jenks, our hometown detective. This would be the province of the FBI. I didn't fear getting caught because of the consequences. I feared my mission ending. There were still so many girls who needed to be saved.

I put on my bathrobe and head to my room. All it has is a mattress on the floor. I don't even have a bedside lamp because I don't read any more. Edward follows me inside. He's shocked by my bald head, my hairless brows. I retrieve clothes from the box in my closet. I don't care if he watches me dress. It's not like he was ever interested in my body, anyway. When I glance over my shoulder, he's staring at the wall, always the "gentleman".

I'm clad in my pajamas now. I lay down on my bed and pull the blanket up to my chin. He sits on the floor beside me. I hate that hesitant, vulnerable look on his face. I wonder if he practiced it in the mirror, like I practice smiling.

"I'm sorry for what I did to you," he says softly and I wish fiercely that my knife could puncture his diamond-hard skin. "I misjudged the situation. I thought that you - " He cuts off his sentence and tries to take my hand in his own. I jerk it away and push both of my hands below my pillow and roll over on my side so that he's talking to my back.

"I thought you'd move on and have a happy human life," he whispers.

It never ceases to amaze me, the lies that people tell themselves to salve their consciences. No, what amazes me is that they can make themselves believe it. He made sure he captured my heart and soul, and then tossed them negligently over his shoulder as he walked away. He heard them shatter as they hit the ground, but told himself that I'd pick up the pieces and be just fine.

He'd once told me he was a monster. It was the truth.

"I thought it best that we make a clean break. I even told Alice not to look at your future."

Unbelievable. He knew Victoria was still on the loose, and her resolve to kill me probably hadn't been erased by the death of her soulmate, but he didn't want Alice to check on me. What did that say? Had he, subconsciously, - in that part of himself that he wouldn't admit to having - hoped that Victoria would "solve" the problem for him?

In the end, she'd let me live because it was crueler. She'd come back a few times over the years to "check" on me. The last time she'd departed, she kissed me on the cheek and told me she was a fan of my "work" and gave me her telephone number in case I ever wanted to have a partner.

"But a vision came to her unbidden. Of you ... Oh, God, Bella, I never expected this."

So, he did know.

"But everything's all right now," he continued. "We're going to get you the help you need, and - "


"My family and I."

Oh, yes. The vampires that played house.

"I don't want your 'help," I say.

He looks very uncomfortable. I hope it's sincere. "Bella, we can't just leave now, knowing ... knowing what you're doing."

"You, of all people, should understand it," I point out. "You had your own 'phase' where you killed evil-doers. I'm merely doing the same."

He flinches. "I came to the conclusion that it was wrong. I was being just as evil - "

"Oh, bullshit. You were lonely and wanted to go home to Daddy, but couldn't do it with red eyes. And he chose to believe your claims of regret for the same reason."

He has a bewildered expression now, a habitual liar unable to comprehend someone who tells the truth. I suppose it's like a foreign language to him. He lies politely, and people are supposed to politely pretend to believe it.

His face hardens. "We can't let you go on like this."

"So, you're going to kill me, then? Go on. I imagine you know how to make it fast."

"No, God, no, Bella. I could never hurt you."

He must see it in my face because he starts stammering out an apology, an explanation, and I'm just not interested in hearing it. "If you're not intending to kill me, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to bring you home and take care of you. And we'll get you some help."

"I told you, I don't want your fucking help."

"You don't have a choice." And he moves so fast, there's no way I can avoid the syringe that jabs into my thigh.

Typical of him. He never gave me any choice.

They're burning the bodies.

I watch from the window as Rosalie and Emmett dig and drag and heave. It is a larger pile than I'd thought it would be, and I see limbs jutting out at awkward angles, wreathed in flame. They're the only ones who have the stomach for it. Alice dry-sobbed and ran back into the house, probably in fear for her designer dress. Esme never left the house. I hear her banging around in the kitchen, as if the noise will drown out reality. He is lurking around the periphery, as usual, and Carlisle is up here with me, trying to get me to answer questions.

"What did those men represent to you, Bella?" he asks me.

"You went to medical school, like, ten times, but you never studied psychiatry, did you?"

He sighs. "No."

"Then can we stop this charade? It's getting really tiresome."

"I want to help you, Bella."

"And I want you to leave me the fuck alone, but none of you have ever cared what I want."

Behind me, I hear him leave the room with another of those martyred sighs. He'll try again tomorrow, as he has done every day since he brought me here.

I haven't left this room. It used to be his, but Alice redecorated it for me like a Disney princess fantasy. She's either severely disturbed or she has a wicked sense of humor. Carlisle should try showing her those Rorschach ink blots. "It looks like a butterfly in need of a Prada makeover."

I hear Carlisle talking to him in the hallway.

"What do we do?"

Carlisle is so out of his depth here, and he knows it. "I don't know, son. I can't help her if she doesn't want to be helped and we can't just release her."

"There has to be something we can do. Some kind of medication. Research it, Carlisle. Please."

"I'll do my best," Carlisle promises. As he walks away, Alice slips inside the room to take his place. They never leave me alone; one of them is with me at all times, even when I go into the bathroom. I ignore them all.

Esme tried to talk to me at first. She brought me food, which I refused to eat until Carlisle brought up an IV and tried to hook me up to it. Now I clean my plate like a good little girl. She crafts fancy meals that she learns to make by watching the Food Network. It all tastes like sawdust and ashes to me, though I know she goes to elaborate lengths to make sure it's perfectly seasoned and uses fine ingredients. And even though I harshly rebuffed her efforts at communication, she still works hard to make those meals, as though she's determined to show me love in one way or another. But her love is nothing but sawdust and ashes, too.

Rosalie is the same as she always was. She never liked me and never bothered to hide it, and she likes me even less now. I respect her for it. She refuses to take part in guard duty. Seeing her from the window was the first sight I'd had of her in weeks. The others make excuses for why they followed him and abandoned me. All of them, except for Rosalie, say they love me. It makes me laugh every time I hear those words, but my laughter is harsh and grating, tinged with a note of hysteria.

He didn't bring any of my things from my apartment and so Alice gleefully shopped for new clothes for me, the kind of clothes that she wants me to wear. Nothing comfortable. Not a pair of jeans or hoodie among them, and so I am imprisoned in this room, wearing a five thousand dollar Dior dress. Maybe Alice takes some kind of wicked pleasure in seeing me dress like I did when I was on the prowl.

None of them will allow me to have a razor, so my bare scalp is covered in lengthening stubble. Emmett tried to tease me about having a Sinéad O'Connor look, but I didn't even smile. Nothing seems to throw him off track more than someone who stares at him, deadpan, after he cracks one of his stupid jokes.

I never knew I was so mean. But that's what the Cullens have done for me: uncovered traits I did not know I had buried within myself.

Time passes. I don't keep track of the days, but my hair is longer than Alice's now. She trimmed it into a "cute" style while I entertained myself with thoughts of burying the scissors in her eye. Carlisle gives me pills, which further disrupts my internal calendar. The medicines make me by turns lethargic and manic and I lose large chunks of time. I destroyed the princess decor during one of my episodes. I don't remember doing that, but I'm the only one who would have.

Carlisle begs me to talk. He offers bribes, such as freedom to roam in the house, walks in the woods, an unlimited budget on Amazon to order books. I won't even look at him. It takes him a surprisingly long time to give up and it occurs around the time that I come to realize I will never leave this room.

He tries to get me to talk, as well, to say anything, even just to acknowledge his presence. He recounts memories of us together. (If I ever decided to speak to him, I'd tell the lovely tale of a girl who died alone in the woods after the man who owned her heart and soul abandoned her.) He sings to me, plays those sappy love songs he composes for me. He claims that leaving me was in my best interest, that he didn't want to do it, but he made the sacrifice for me. I notice that he hasn't told me where he was for the last seven years. Maybe he's hoping I'll ask.

This is the rest of my life. The four walls of this room. The window which has been replaced with unbreakable Lexan. Meals brought to me on a tray. And one of the Cullen clan always present.

It's Rosalie who finally offers me a way out. Carlisle and Esme went away for the weekend, and Emmett had gone hunting. The phone downstairs rang and Rosalie came to tap on my bedroom door to inform Alice, who was siting in a chair beside it, reading a fashion magazine, (now that I think of it, I've never seen Alice read an actual book) that the phone call was for her. She held a cup of coffee in her hand, but Alice must not have noticed as she passed.

I noticed. Vampires don't drink coffee, and Rosalie never brings me anything.

She sets it on the little coffee table. I meet her eyes, and that's when I know what it is. A way out. The only way I'll ever leave this room. It wasn't like I was planning to live to old age, anyway. Eventually, I would have either been killed by one of my intended victims or strapped to a table by the State with a needle in my arm.

"I'm giving you a choice," Rosalie says. "All of your choices have been taken from you. I know what that's like, because I never had a choice, either."

I've never felt such gratitude. It's akin to love. I can't even speak as I gaze into her topaz eyes, but I can tell that she sees it. She nods.

I pick up the cup. The coffee is just hot enough to be pleasant, but not to scorch my throat. It's delicious, this cup of death, and I drink it down with joy. The effects are immediate. My throat constricts, and my hands fly of their own accord to claw at it, as though to loosen an invisible noose. Rosalie watches me as I fall to the floor. There isn't any compassion in her gaze, but there's no malice either.

"Rose!" he screams. How did he know? He must have read her thoughts. "My God, what have you done?"

"What should have been done a long time ago."

"No! Oh, God, no!" My fading vision tells me he's scooped me up into his arms as the floor swoops away, but I can't feel it. I can't even turn my head to glare at him. That's why I don't feel the bite.

"Edward, you can't! Stop, this isn't right! It's her choice, not yours!" Rosalie tries to pull him away, but he's stronger, more determined. He throws her into the wall.

"I can save her. I have to save her." He's chanting it over and over and I see him bite both of my wrists and then push up my skirt to sink his teeth into my femoral artery. Only mortal peril could cause him to behave so immodestly.

Oh, please, let him be too late. But my stubborn heart beats on and the numbness gives way to fire.

I'm looking out the window at the stretch of lawn where my garden used to be, where the dark fruits of my labor were planted. They're gone now, gone without a trace. What didn't burn, Rosalie and Emmett smashed and scattered in the river.

Behind me, Alice sits in the chair by the door and flips through yet another fashion magazine.

I'm waiting. Waiting for my chance. It will come; I must be patient.

I planned it while I lay there burning, still paralyzed by Rosalie's poison, unable to writhe or scream from my agony, but I was careful not to make any decisions, lest Alice see.

They believe I don't remember anything of my human life. That's what I pretended when my heart finally lurched to a halt and I was able to sit up. Inundated with all the new scents, colors and sounds, it wasn't hard to pretend bewilderment. Now, I am sweet and shy and as sane as a judge. I hug Esme frequently, squeal over clothes with Alice and laugh at Emmett's buffoonery. I listen gravely as Carlisle, the Cullen version of Mr. Brady, dispenses his wisdom. Jasper is the only one who has doubts. I see him frown on occasion when he catches a whiff of my real emotions. He hasn't said anything, something I know he will live to regret. That is good; I want all of them to live with regret.

He is thrilled. He thinks he's made me fall in love with him all over again. He's courting me like a gentleman of his day with gifts, songs he wrote for me on his piano and strolls through the woods. Yesterday, we had our "first" kiss. I find that I can fake love just as well as I used to fake sanity. And like the girls I save, he is eager to believe it. But there will be no one to save him from me.

They're still watching me closely because newborns are supposed to have little control over their bloodlust. They're careful to keep me far away from humans. But I don't thirst for blood as much as I thirst for vengeance, for freedom. My chance will come soon. There will be a moment when only one of them guards me, and the others will be too far away to stop me. The human blood that still lingers in my system makes me stronger than they are, at least temporarily. I don't think they'll come after me, but if they do, I'll be ready. Victoria will help me. And maybe, I'll help her.

I think Rosalie knows. That's why she refuses to guard me. That's good, because of all of them, she's the one I would regret tearing to pieces.

Perhaps I should write them a thank-you note when I go. They have given me the tools to more easily capture and destroy my prey. I will be a savior again, immortal, unstoppable.


~ Finis ~