This first chapter is mostly a flashback to Bella's eighth grade year when all of the tormenting began; it's to help you begin understanding why she is how she is.

More to come, if I get a good response. :)

I knew going to a brand new school was going to be difficult; especially going to one so far away from the one I was currently attending. The school I attended now only had about five hundred students; this new school had over two thousand, four times as many. That meant there were four times as many students to take one look at me and automatically judge me for my slightly different personality.

Human beings were really bad at being judgmental pricks.

I was trying to learn how to be more optimistic. I was trying to give it my best shot. It was easy at school, being with people I've known since kindergarten. I've learned who to ignore, and I've built up a protective I-don't-give-a-fuck barrier against their insults and their teasing. At least they stopped hiding my shit, or knocking stuff out of my hands in the hallway. At first I would react to it by crying or yelling and screaming. My best (and only) friend Alex told me that by reacting to it I'm just giving them what they want. So I started being silent, my only action bending down to pick up whatever had been rudely knocked from my grasp. Nine times out of ten it's usually my notebook, filled with thoughts too graphic and personal to be shared with the world.

At my school, anyone not a jock, cheerleader, or some other level of preppy is considered an outsider and constantly abused until they either convert or leave. Well, I couldn't leave because my parents wanted to stay right where we were until they saved up enough money to move. For the first few years of school, everything was fine. I was in neutral territory. The girls hadn't learned enough to become bitchy little whores yet and the guys hadn't discovered tanning beds and weight rooms. It was normal - if you could even call it that. I had more than one friend, and I spent my weekends with them, sleeping at their houses and sharing secrets.

One weekend, into the start of my eighth grade year, I was spending the night at my (now former) friend Caroline's house. We sat in her basement, laying on our stomachs in front of her giant television, watching some dramatic movie that was popular that year. My parents had just begun their rocky phase, always bickering over little things and constantly arguing. I bought a notebook that had different quotes from famous poets on the front and began writing down what I couldn't bring myself to say out loud. Some things were petty, others darker and more sinister. I believed that if I could just get them down on paper, I would be less likely to blurt them out in public. I would be safe from my ultimate enemy - myself.

How wrong I was.

I left it in my sleeping bag to use the bathroom (I know I had drunk at least a liter of Mountain Dew by myself, and I definitely did not have a bladder of steel). When I returned, Caroline was sitting up, the movie paused, deeply buried in its secretive pages. Page after page after page of my most intimate and private thoughts were now being invaded by her beady little eyes. I froze where I stood; she didn't notice that I had returned yet. Every so often she would set the notebook down and her thumbs would fly across her phone, no doubt texting my secrets to anyone she could tell.

Something inside me snapped and I panicked, moving quickly to where she was and snatching my notebook, running out of her house with tears starting to form in my eyes. I ran past her parents, past her little brother, past everything I thought was safe and comfortable. It turns out I was deceived. We promised each other that if we told each other secrets that they would never leave our heads. We would take them to the grave. So far the secrets had just been little things, like secret crushes and things of that nature. I guess that promise didn't apply to secrets of epic proportions, like the ones residing in my notebook.

Our friendship ended in that moment, and I never looked back.

My last day of school was one where I was more happy than sad to leave. Of course I was going to miss Alex, who had stood by me the moment he moved here in eighth grade. By that time I was a social leper, since a good chunk of what I had written down had made its way through the entire school. Being called a freak bothered me at first, but as time went on the insults became a lot more vicious, and I was lucky if someone just called me a freak. Alex moved here on one of the worst days I had ever had by that point. It was almost winter break, meaning the winter dance was quickly approaching. Talk quickly turned to dresses and shoes and dates, and although there were insults and threats and pranks mixed in, it had lessened.

It was the day of the dance when Alex arrived. I was sitting in my English class, and Miss Barnes had given up trying to teach us anything, since three quarters of the class was gone to help decorate the gym. She had asked me to go locate Ashton Williams, a girl who had given me hell since the day my secrets got out. She was stereotypical of a cheerleader: blonde, short, perky, and I was suspecting a nose job, or at least some form of plastic surgery. With much regret I did as I was asked, locating her in the gym with the rest of the blonde and the bitchy. I found her hanging up streamers and pieces of paper that looked like deformed snowflakes. I walked to her, coughing, and said, "Miss Barnes needs to see you, Ashton," and walked away before she could open her mouth.

Someone called my name. Every gut instinct I had told me not to turn around, to just keep walking and go back to class. I almost listened too, but something - God knows what - made me turn around. Before I could even mutter a, "Yes?" I was suddenly drenched from head to toe in red pain, Carrie style. My hair, my outfit, everything was covered in it. I felt like a well-used tampon. Laughter sounded all around me, and I felt mortified. Tears stung my eyes, escaping to fall down my face, and my legs buckled like they were going to give out on me.

Someone shouted, "What the hell do you think you're doing?" I turned, expecting a teacher. I was met with all 6 foot two of fourteen year old Alex Mayner, with shaggy blonde hair, piercing (and at the time, incredibly pissed off) green eyes, and a birthmark in the shape of a heart right in the spot where his left dimple is. He looked on with disgust at the girls that were responsible for this prank, his eyes softening - not to pity, but to sincere concern - when he looked into my own. "Are you okay?" he asked, reaching out to wipe away one of my tears that was still clinging to the red paint on my cheek. I looked at him in the face and...

...I cried. Like a blubbering newborn baby, I bawled my eyes out. He held me to his chest, getting paint all over his clothes, but he told me later on that he didn't care; I was distressed and traumatized and I needed comfort. He silently led me away from the group I deemed Evil Incarnate from then on, still holding one arm around me, carrying his books in the other. He led me to the nurse's office, and Nurse Almen took one look at me and retreated to a room just off the office, returning with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, obviously from the Lost and Found box. Alex stepped out of the room to let me change, and then returned once I was finished. Nurse Almen tried her hardest to get most of the red paint out of my hair and off my skin; my hair was still tinted with paint after her attempt, but there was no paint on any of my exposed skin.

She wanted to get the principal and demand that some form of punishment be administered to the girls responsible, but I shook my head. Going to the principal would only emphasize the invisible target placed on my back. It was better if I just endured this like I've endured everything else, with no attempts at revenge and staying silent.

As we left the nurse's, I turned to Alex and opened my mouth, but no sound came out. What was I going to say? "Thank you for saving me from the Evil Incarnate?" He deserved more than just a weak attempt at a thank you, because that's the nicest thing anyone had done for me all year. He smiled, showing a mouthful of braces. "You're welcome. I'm Alex, by the way."


He smiled. "I don't understand why those girls did that to you; what do they have against you?"

Oh Alex. Telling you the whole story would take all day, and if I gave you the short version, you'd be more confused than anything. "It's not a big deal. I've dealt with other incidents, and I'll deal with this one," I said, shrugging.

"There's been more than just this?"

More than you know. "Yeah, but it's no bi-"

"It's a big deal, and you know it, Bella. They don't need to pick on you like that; it's not fair and it's not right," he argued.

"Look, you don't know what I've been through, so don't tell me what is and isn't a big deal. You only just moved here, and you'll learn soon enough that everyone has a place; mine just so happens to be at the bottom of the food chain. So don't act like you know me just because you became my knight in shining armor for a brief moment. For the last few months my life has been a living hell, and I'm not even in high school yet where most of the drama is supposed to be. I'm tormented every waking moment because of my own thoughts and feelings; I'm different than most of the other stuck up brats in this school and they don't like that. I'm not a cheerleader and I don't give a crap about who's dating who and who's going where for vacation, and I certainly don't care about the latest trends in fashion and music. I break the mold, and they hate me for it. I've learned the hard way that life is not fair, and accepting that allows me to go through every day with minimal confrontation. I'm hoping that one day they'll get tired of me, but for now I just have to grin and bear it, like I've done everything else." Tears started flowing again just as the bell rang. I didn't want to be caught out in the hallway when I was such an emotional wreck. "I've got to go." I turned and fled down the hallway, leaving Alex standing there, alone.

Later that day, when it was time to go home, I stood at my locker, mindlessly dialing the combination. I felt numb all over, like someone had injected my entire body with Novocaine. I opened the door and a piece of paper - folded up many times by the look of it - fell to the floor. I picked it up, noticing that someone had written "Bella" on it in messy handwriting. I wanted to read it then, but I knew my mom was waiting for me outside in the car. I would wait until I was in the safety of my bedroom before opening it. I grabbed the books I needed for homework and flew past people in the hallway. I got into my mom's car, the note clutched in my fist, and muttered a greeting to her. She smiled - she was used to my lack of enthusiasm by now - and drove away.

When we arrived home, dad's police car wasn't there, so I knew he was still working. I ran into the house the moment it was unlocked and went to my room, shutting the door behind me. Laying back on my bed, I slowly unfolded the note, noticing a long paragraph scrawled onto the paper.

You're right. I don't know you and I don't know what goes on in your life. But I've learned enough to know to help others in need, and I couldn't stand to see you treated like how those girls were treating you. You deserve more than a bucket of paint thrown over you; you deserve happiness. While I don't know why you're being tormented and while I probably will never understand (or get) the full story, I'm letting you know right now that when you need a friend, I'll be there for you. I'm glad you're the first person I met when I came here. You're a real person, unlike these other clones. I'd rather be your friend than anyone else's, just because you're intriguing, different, and you're honest. I have a feeling this is the start of a friendship that will last a lifetime.


P.S. Don't ask how I knew which locker was yours. That's for me to know and for you to find out.

Needless to say that night, for the first time in months, I didn't go to bed with tear stained cheeks; I went to sleep with a smile glued to my face.